Chaliapin, Feodor Ivanovich

Chaliapin, Feodor Ivanovich fyôˈdər ēväˈnəvĭch shəlyäˈpyĭn [key], 1873–1938, Russian operatic bass. His powerful and supple voice, together with his tremendous physique, his gusto, and his superb ability as a naturalistic actor, made him one of the greatest performers in the history of opera. Taught by the singer Usatov, he first gained notice in 1894 in St. Petersburg; then he sang in Moscow and rapidly won an international reputation. After the Russian Revolution he was a lauded “artist of the people,” but disagreement with the Soviet government caused him to remain outside Russia after 1921, although he maintained that he was not anti-Soviet. After an unspectacular American debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1907, he returned in 1921 and sang there with immense success for eight seasons. His most famous role was the lead in Moussorgsky's Boris Godunov, but he also won praise as Ivan the Terrible in Rimsky-Korsakov's Maid of Pskov, in the title role of Boito's Mefistofele, and as Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust. His recitals, which included popular Russian music, were also highly successful wherever he performed.

See his autobiography as told to M. Gorky, ed. by N. Froud and J. Hanley (1968).

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