Monday, June 7, 2010

My Cousin, the Opera Singer from Imperial Russia

I've just learned from my family that this man, Lev Sibiriakov (1869-1942) is my first cousin, thrice removed (that is, my great-grandfather's cousin).

He's fantastic.

Here's the description from the guy who uploaded the video:

"Born in 1869, Sibiriakov's involvement in music started early, and as a boy he sang in a synagogue choir. He travelled to Milan in his late teens to study with Lauro Rossi and, upon his return to Russia, began appearing in provincial opera houses throughout the country, including those of Baku, Kiev, Kharkov, and Tbilisi. In 1895 he was finally accepted by the Mariinsky Theater in his native St. Petersburg, and he remained a regular there until the Bolshevik Revolution caused his departure 22 years later. Sibiriakov was also one of few singers of Imperial Russia who performed abroad with some regularity, appearing in Italy, Boston (1910), Covent Garden (1911), and Berlin (1912). After 1917 he settled in Antwerp, where he continued his career and became a noted teacher. Sibiriakov also made a late debut in Monte Carlo at age 63, taking on the role of Baldassare in La Favorita (opposite Lauri-Volpi). His last stage performance, as Pimen, came in 1938.

And what of the voice? "Imposing" is a word that has been rather overused when it comes to describing singers, yet I can scarcely think of a better adjective to convey the instrument's grandeur. Unlike Chaliapin, Sibiriakov's voice was a yawning, wonderfully inky operatic basso profondo- rich and powerful, with spot-on intonation and flawlessly equalized registers. Indeed, upon hearing it, one gets the impression of having come upon a block of polished granite, burnished and massive. Sibiriakov's manner is straightforward but never vacuous; dignified but never dull. In contrast to Chaliapin's extroversion and histrionics, he comes across as much more even-tempered. And despite my admiration for Chaliapin's art, on a purely vocal basis I prefer Sibiriakov for regular listening, given my liking for profondo voices (sacrilege, I know ;). The recording here, "Pro Peccatis" from Rossini's Stabat Mater, was made in 1913 (a Gramophone record) and shows Sibiriakov in majestic voice, with a splendidly ringing top- no problems with the taxing tessitura here. Those who think that singers in the basso profondo category are a vocally inflexible lot would be well-advised to give Sibiriakov (as well as the great post-WWII bass Boris Shtokolov) a listen."

Here's another recording:

And last, but maybe my favorite, a little Tchaikovsky.
Youtube link

I like him a lot. Maybe I'll use some of my vacation time next year to go to Antwerp or Brussels and see if I can dig up anything on him!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beauty, unaccompanied by virtue, is as a flower without perfume...................................................