Arbiter Records 126

The Chaliapin Edition volume 2

1908-1911 The first Boris Godunov

Track List

  1. Folk song: Luchinushka
  2. Folk song: In the meadows
  3. Serov: Malevolent Power: Eremka's Song
  4. Folk song: Down Mother Volga
  5. Folk song: From under the oak
  6. Folk song: Nochenka
  7. Verstovskiy: aria from Askold's grave
  8. Gounod: Faust: Two scenes I
  9. Gounod: Faust: Two scenes II
  10. Folk song: Eh, Vanka
  11. Verdi: Don Carlos: Dormiro sol
  12. Sokolov: The tempest rages in the fields
  13. Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov: Pimen's aria
  14. Folk song: Dubinushka
  15. Folk song: Arise, fair sun
  16. Folk song: The sun rises and sets
  17. Folk song: Luchinushka
  18. Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov: Varlaam's song
  19. Folk song: They don't let Masha
  20. Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov: Farewell, Death

When Chaliapin made his first recordings in Moscow he had been singing since September 1899 as a soloist of the Bolshoi Opera House. This time also marks the beginning of an extensive concert career and growing international prominence: In March 1901, Chaliapin triumphed in Milan with his first performance in Boito’s Mefistofele. Chaliapin’s recordings during these years mostly reflected his Russian opera roles and one Italian opera – King Philip in Verdi’s Don Carlos, which he sang for the first time on March 2, 1906 in Monte Carlo, and only in February 1917 in Russia. In Monte Carlo, Chaliapin also appeared as Mefistofele, Mephistopheles, Don Basilio, King Philip and Rubinstein’s Demon. With the same company, He debuted in Berlin in March 1907.The season of 1907-1908 also brought Chaliapin to New York, Philadelphia and Buenos Aires. However, Chaliapin’s participation in the famous Russian Historical Seasons organized by Diaghilev at the same time in Paris became paramount to his World fame.

If the first Chaliapin recording sessions (Vol. 1) were divided between Russia, Italy, and France, the following eight sessions were made exclusively in Russia. Among them were Russian and [one] Ukrainian folk songs, and excerpts from Faust, Boris Godunov, and Don Carlos. He also attempted to record one Russian prayer and the Demon’s first aria -Do Not Weep, Child: none were released, and whether those matrixes survive is not yet known.

Chaliapin’s Boris Godunov had conquered Russia since the singer’s debut in this role in 1898 in the Private Opera. Upon his return to the Imperial stage, the critics’ highest acclaim followed him after performances in both the Bolshoi and Mariynsky theaters. On May 19, 1908, Chaliapin appeared in this role (the second Diaghilev Russian Season) in the Grand Opera. The histrionic performance of the Russian singer had captivated not only the public but critics as well. On the day of his last performance (June 4) he was awarded the order of the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. One century ago, the composer Alexander Serov (1820-1871) was famous in Russia. All three of his operas – Judith, Rogneda, and Vrazhya Sila (Malevolent Power), were popular. The libretto of Malevolent Power derives from a play by Alexander Ostrovsky Ne Tak Zhivi, Kak Khochetsia (Don’t Live The Way You Want). Due to sudden heart failure, Serov didn’t finish his last opera, a task taken on by his wife – the composer Valentina Serov, and Nikolai Soloviev, composer and music critic. The action takes place in a rich merchant family of 18th-century Moscow with an inevitably love triangle, passion, deception, infidelity, and eventually, murder of the main heroine. Eremka, sung by Chaliapin, is the secondary character, a blacksmith, yet schemer with the soul of a reprobate. Chaliapin commented that there are no small parts in opera, only small actors. Thus, one can assume that this secondary part emerged as a main character. This ‘defect’ was even noted in a review by Engel, a noted contemporary Moscow critic, who wrote: “it will be repeated again and again, as long as Chaliapin continues singing the secondary parts, or until his partners will become second Chaliapins.”

Chaliapin recorded Eremka’s song twice: the second attempt (in 1931) is better known than the first (heard on this CD) yet, to this writer, the first version is superior. Alexei Verstovsky (1799-1862) wrote songs, music for dramas, and over thirty comic operas, opera-vaudevilles and with six full-scale works. Askold’s Tomb, the most significant Russian opera of the pre-Glinka era, is based on a historic novel set during the reign of Prince Vladimir of Kiev, nearly 1,000 years ago by Mikhail Zagoskin. It premiered in 1835 at the Bolshoi Theater. Chaliapin first sang the role of Neizvestnyi (The Unknown) in March of 1891 at age 18 in the S. Semenov-Samarsky provincial opera company in the city of Ufa. In February 1899, commemorating a centenary of Verstovsky’s birth, Chaliapin sang this role twice at the Private Opera.: there are no other traces of Chaliapin having sung again in this opera. He performed the Neizvestnyi aria in recital: the recording on this CD was his only attempt to document it on disc.

Many critics of the past rightfully linked Chaliapin’s name next to Mussorgsky and Pushkin, while naming him as a ‘co-author’ of Boris Godunov. Chaliapin learned the score and knew each part. He created Boris, who became the role model for all basses to follow, but also sang the role of Varlaam – a monk escapee from a monastery: at times he sang both roles in the same performance. Aside from these two bass roles, Mussorgsky included one more – the elderly monk Pimen. Unfortunately for Chaliapin, both Pimen and Boris meet in the final scene of the opera., so he never performed the part. Luckily for us, he made two recordings of his monologue, the first presented on this CD.

According to Garmash, Chaliapin’s repertory comprised over 60 Russian and nearly 30 Ukrainian songs. The singer almost always included folk songs in his recitals, especially abroad. Some, such as, Ei, ukhnem (Song of the Volga Boatmen) and Ochi Chornye (Black Eyes) became popular around the world through him. Chaliapin was the first opera singer to add folk songs to his classical repertoire, not only giving them new life but making them classical. He recorded no more than one third of nearly one hundred folk songs – ten of which are present on this CD.
-Joseph Darsky