The 25-year old Jussi Björling in "Se quel guerrier io fossi...Celeste Aida" from Act 1 of Verdi's Aida (sung in Swedish - whereas his stage partners sang in German). This is taken from a live performance on 7 June 1936 at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) conducted by Victor de Sabata. Please kindly note that due to the extremely primitive technology (explained below) used for the live recording, there is an interruption in the middle of the aria (with the beginning of the second verse lost)
Björling appeared for only two seasons at the Vienna State Opera (1935/36 and 1936/37) throughout his entire career. Hermann May, the Vienna State Opera's sound technician, was responsible for the recording. He was appointed in 1929 at the recommendation of Clemens Krauss to take charge of the engineering of sound effects at the opera house. Within his job capacity, he indulged in a personal hobby of recording selected moments of performances at the opera house. Microphones were smuggled onto the stage and the sound recordings were made on wax, gelatine, or decelith sheets. Such primitive recording methods and equipments were able to capture only segments of performances. Several excerpts he recorded faded out at a particular point and then faded back in several measures or pages later, making the listening process a sort of "operatic coitus interruptus." Despite these limitations, these excerpts form a precious legacy from a bygone era of one of the most important opera performing venues in the world. The excerpt presented here also captured the fresh, pristine singing of the young Björling just before his international career began.
The info on the performance and cast is as follows:
Radames: Jussi Björling
Aida: Maria Nemeth
Amonasro: Alexander Svéd
Amneris: Kerstin Thorborg
Ramfis: Ludwig Hofmann
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
Victor de Sabata, conductor
7 June 1936
Watch videos with other singers performing Celeste Aida:
RADAMÈS Se quel guerrier Io fossi! se il mio sogno S'avverasse!... Un esercito di prodi Da me guidato... e la vittoria... e il plauso Di Menfi tutta! E a te, mia dolce Aida, Tornar di lauri cinto... Dirti: per te ho pugnato, per to ho vinto!
Celeste Aida, forma divina. Mistico serto di luce e fior, Del mio pensiero tu sei regina, Tu di mia vita sei lo splendor.
Il tuo bel cielo vorrei redarti, Le dolci brezze del patrio suol; Un regal serta sul crin posarti, Ergerti un trono vicino al sol.
Celeste Aida, forma divina, Mistico raggio di luce e fior, ecc.
English Libretto or Translation:
RADAMÈS If I were that warrior! If my dreams were to come true! A valiant army led by me… and victory… and the acclamations of all Memphis! And to return to you, my sweet Aida, crowned with laurels… to tell you: for you I fought, for you I conquered!
Heavenly Aida, form divine, mystical garland of light and flowers, of my thoughts you are the queen, you are the light of my life.
I would return to you your lovely sky, the gentle breezes of your native land; a royal crown on your brow I would set, build you a throne next to the sun.
Heavenly Aida, form divine, mystical gleam of light and flowers, etc.