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the name is transliterated from the Russian there are alternative
spellings: nowadays the tendency is to use Feodor (or Fyodor)
Chaliapin: however I have stuck with the spelling used on the HMV
78s. Chaliapine was the foremost Russian bass of his era. He was born
near Kazan in 1873, and was at first self-taught. After singing with
provincial companies he studied at Tbilisi, subsequently singing in
St. Petersburg in 1894 and joining the Russian Imperial Troupe in
1895. Appearances with them and in Paris, New York and London
established his fame. After the First World War he was not allowed by
the Soviet Government to leave Russia until 1921, after which he
settled in England and continued to make appearances in the world's
leading opera houses until his death in Paris in 1938.
Much more than any other singer of the time he had considerable
abilities as an actor (though not a subtle one: Ravel complained of
his 'sinister laughs and cavernous shudders' in 1913): the
characterizations of all his roles were sharply differentiated and
almost burst out of his recordings (and the photographs)
- Pimen, Boris, Vaarlam (Boris Godounov), Galitsky, Konchak
(Prince Igor), Don Quixote (Massenet), and both Boito's and
Gounod's Mefistopheles: indeed in Faust he brought a whole
extra sardonic layer to Gounod's rather shallow pantomime Devil.
His voice was powerful and flexible - indeed he could sing
baritone roles - and his presence on stage overpowering. He was also
a master of makeup, as the page of photographs
I have assembled shows clearly.
OF PRINCE GALITSKY (Prince Igor) (Borodin)
HMV DA891, recorded 1927 (1.6 MB)
He sang all three major roles in Prince Igor (Igor,
Konchak, Galitsky): this recording demonstrates the strength of his
characterization as the dissolute Prince, left in charge in Igor's
absence and wasting no time in licentious behaviour.
SONG OF THE FLEA (Moussorgsky)
HMV DB932, recorded 1926 (1.6 MB)
I have cheated slightly here, as this isn't an operatic aria: but
Chaliapine's recording of Moussorgsky's satirical song is one of his
best performances. As it is more enjoyable if you understand the
words I have provided a translation.
Apart from his operatic career, Chaliapine appeared in two films:
a silent made in 1915, Pskovityanka, and G.W.Pabst's 1933
Don Quichotte in which Chaliapine played the Don in both the
French and English versions. (In the English version Sancho Panza was
played by the veteran music-hall comic George Robey: the songs in
both versions were by Ibert). You can see the complete film (free) in
RealVideo at Movieflix.com.
Records have embarked on a project to issue all of Chaliapine's
records on CD: Volume 1 is on Arbiter 125, volume 2 on 126 and volume
3 on 127.
(who are distributed by Harmonia
Mundi) have issued a CD (89965) of excerpts from live
performances of Mefistofele, Faust, Boris
Godounov, and Mozart and Salieri at Covent Garden and the
Royal Albert Hall in 1928 & 1927: though inevitably less polished
than the studio recordings these provide a fascinating record of his
power on stage.
Other CDs are Conifer MCHD226, EMI
CDH7 61009-2 and Pearl
With the exception of the Preiser I have not heard these transfers
and list them here simply for information. I can't guarantee they are