Among the many gifts to the city, one of the most beloved and eagerly awaited of the Consulate General of Sweden’s treats is the annual Jenny Lind Concert. Thursday, June 20 was a delightful, warm day in San Francisco with a gentle breeze in the hidden glen called Yerba Buena Gardens, which is surrounded by civic institutions, museums and tall skyscrapers.
Backed into a little knoll is a semicircular open-air stage, surrounded by eight concrete pillars topped with a sound shell to focus the melodies out to the audience seated or lounging on the lawns and hillsides. Between the pillars hang banners as simple backdrops, the YBG concert banner flanked by Swedish flags. And this year, beneath a canopy the artists could easily see and perform without squinting.
Midsummer and singing go together like sun and summer. The concert featured the winner of the prestigious 2013 Jenny Lind Scholarship, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and the People's Parks and Community Centers in Stockholm. The 2013 Jenny Lind scholar is Ms. Magdalena Risberg. Chosen to accompany her on the 2013 Jenny Lind Concert Tour is the accomplished pianist and Royal Academy of Music scholar, Mr. David Huang.
The scholarship includes a tour of the United States in the footsteps of Jenny Lind, the famous Swedish Nightingale. Jenny Lind toured America in 1850-1851 at the invitation of impresario and circus manager P.T. Barnum, and on arrival in New York, was greeted by 30,000 people on the dock.
Ms. Risberg was born and raised in a musical family in Stockholm. At age 4 she began studying the violin. As a young woman, however, she found her voice, attended the Royal College of Music and is now in her last year of the University College of Opera in Stockholm. She has received rave reviews in all of her opera performances.
Mr. Huang is a Chinese-born Swedish pianist who moved to Sweden with his parents at the age of 3. He grew up in Trosa, Sweden, began playing the piano at the age of 11, and moved to Stockholm. After receiving his high school diploma, he began studies at both the Stockholm School of Economics and the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. After two years, he took up piano studies completely. Beyond receiving his Bachelor’s Degree at the Royal Academy of Music, David secured his Master’s Degree in Oslo. He will complete studies for his Soloist’s Diploma at the Edberg’s Castle program of the Royal Academy of Music.
The noted romantic soprano began her midsummer program with Swedish and Scandinavian songs by Peterson-Berger, de Frumerie and Sibellius, which Mr. Huang continued with Grieg and Peterson-Berger pieces. Upon her return Ms. Risberg won the audience’s heart with Grieg’s “Jeg elsker dig” sung in the original Norwegian.
Then both soloist and pianist transitioned into the more classical romantic repertoire with Puccini’s “Quando me’n vo” (Musettas’ waltz, musing on her beauty). Mr. Huang picked up the baton with his rendition of Ravel’s “Jeux d’eau” (playful water). As the pianist explained in announcing his choice, the title really refers to water features in gardens, and Ravel himself wrote on the manuscript: “River god laughing as the water tickles him …” and indicated that he was inspired by his mentor, Fauré, to whom the piece is dedicated. So as Mr. Huang tickled the ivories one could hear accompanying him the burbling waterfall and pool in the gardens.
Ms. Risberg and Mr. Huang concluded their program with several songs by Fauré and with Marguerite’s Jewel aria from Faust. Their bravura performance encouraged encores and the Consul General thanked both of the artists with bountiful bouquets in Swedish colors.
As the audience drifted back to their daily tasks, they were buoyed by the beauty of this recreational break. We all gratefully acknowledge the sponsorship of this concert by Folkets Hus och Parker and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, Stockholm but particularly thank Consul General Osher for such a joyous midsummer day.