Boris Christoff

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Boris Christoff
Boris Khristov. crop.jpg
Native name
Борис Кирилов Христов
Born(1914-05-18)18 May 1914
Died28 June 1993(1993-06-28) (aged 79)
OccupationOpera singer (bass)
Awards Léonie Sonning Music Prize

Boris Christoff (Bulgarian : Борис Кирилов Христов, translit.  Boris Kirilov Hristov, IPA:  [bɔˈris ˈkirilɔf ˈxristɔf] ; 18 May 1914 28 June 1993) was a Bulgarian opera singer, widely considered one of the greatest basses of the 20th century. [1] [2]

Bulgarian language South Slavic language

Bulgarian, is an Indo-European language and a member of the Southern branch of the Slavic language family.

Romanization of Bulgarian transliteration of text in Bulgarian from its conventional Cyrillic orthography into the Latin alphabet

Romanization of Bulgarian is the practice of transliteration of text in Bulgarian from its conventional Cyrillic orthography into the Latin alphabet. Romanization can be used for various purposes, such as rendering of proper names and place names in foreign-language contexts, or for informal writing of Bulgarian in environments where Cyrillic is not easily available. Official use of romanization by Bulgarian authorities is found, for instance, in identity documents and in road signage. Several different standards of transliteration exist, one of which was chosen and made mandatory for common use by the Bulgarian authorities in a law of 2009.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Contents

Training

Born in Plovdiv, Christoff demonstrated early his singing talent and sang as a boy at the choir of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia.[ citation needed ] His father had been a very popular cantor at Resen, attracting the faithful to the Exarchist church where he was chanting. [3] In the late 1930s he graduated in law and started a career as a magistrate. He continued singing in his spare time in the Gusla Chorus in Sofia, achieving an enormous success as the chorus soloist in 1940. Thanks to a government grant, Christoff left in May 1942 for Italy where he was tutored for two years in the core Italian bass repertoire by the great baritone of an earlier generation, Riccardo Stracciari.

Plovdiv City in Bulgaria

Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria, with a city population of 345,213 as of 2017 and 675,000 in the greater metropolitan area. It is an important economic, transport, cultural, and educational center. There is evidence of habitation in Plovdiv dating back to the 6th millennium BCE, when the first Neolithic settlements were established; it is said to be one of the oldest cities in Europe.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Built in Neo-Byzantine style, it serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria and it is one of the largest Christian church buildings, as well as one of Sofia's symbols and primary tourist attractions. The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia occupies an area of 3,170 square metres (34,100 sq ft) and can hold 5,000 people inside. It is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Cathedrals and church buildings in the world, third-largest Orthodox Cathedral located in Southeast Europe, being surpassed only by two new and not yet fully completed Cathedrals - the Romanian People's Salvation Cathedral in Bucharest and the Church of Saint Sava in Belgrade. From 1931 until 1992 it was the largest finished Orthodox Church in the world, and until year 2000 was the largest finished Orthodox Cathedral.

Performance career

After several guest appearances and recitals in Austria in 1944 and 1945, Christoff returned to Italy in December 1945. He made his operatic debut as Colline in La bohème at Reggio Calabria on 12 March 1946. In following years Christoff appeared in a number of roles at Milan's La Scala, Venice's La Fenice, the Rome Opera, Covent Garden in London, the opera theatres in Naples, Barcelona, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, etc.

<i>La bohème</i> opera by Giacomo Puccini

La bohème is an opera in four acts, composed by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. The world premiere of La bohème was in Turin on 1 February 1896 at the Teatro Regio, conducted by the 28-year-old Arturo Toscanini. Since then, La bohème has become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and is one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide.

Reggio Calabria Comune in Calabria, Italy

Reggio di Calabria, commonly known as Reggio Calabria(listen) or simply Reggio in Southern Italy, is the largest city and the most populated comune of Calabria, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria and the seat of the Regional Council of Calabria.

Milan Italian city

Milan is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome, with the city proper having a population of 1,372,810 while its metropolitan city has a population of 3,245,308. Its continuously built-up urban area has a population estimated to be about 5,270,000 over 1,891 square kilometres. The wider Milan metropolitan area, known as Greater Milan, is a polycentric metropolitan region that extends over central Lombardy and eastern Piedmont and which counts an estimated total population of 7.5 million, making it by far the largest metropolitan area in Italy and the 54th largest in the world. Milan served as capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402 and the Duchy of Milan during the medieval period and early modern age.

In 1950 he was invited to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City but was refused entry into the USA as a result of the McCarran Immigration Act, which banned citizens of Eastern bloc countries from entering the country. The role was instead filled by the young Italian basso, Cesare Siepi. After the restrictions were loosened, Christoff made an operatic debut in the United States in 1956 at the San Francisco Opera. He refused any further invitations to the Metropolitan and never appeared there. After a brief absence from the scene due to brain tumour surgery in 1964, Christoff resumed his career in 1965, though at a much slower pace. In 1967 he was allowed to return to Bulgaria for the first time since 1945, for the funeral of his mother.

Metropolitan Opera opera company in Manhattan, New York City

The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company based in New York City, resident at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager. As of 2018, the company's current music director is Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States and in the U.S. state of New York. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Cesare Siepi Italian opera singer

Cesare Siepi was an Italian opera singer, generally considered to have been one of the finest basses of the post-war period. His voice was characterised by a deep, warm timbre, a full, resonant, wide-ranging lower register with relaxed vibrato, and a ringing, vibrant upper register. Although renowned as a Verdian bass, his tall, striking presence and the elegance of phrasing made him a natural for the role of Don Giovanni. He can be seen in that role on a famous 1954 film of the opera made during an edition of the Salzburg Festival under the baton of Wilhelm Furtwängler.

In the 1970s Christoff on-stage performances were all but frequent.[ clarification needed ] He brought his career to an end with a final concert at the Accademia di Bulgaria in Rome on 22 June 1986. He died in Rome in 1993 and his body was returned to Bulgaria, where he was given a state funeral and buried in Sofia's Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

Voice, repertoire, character

Christoff had an excellent voice with a distinctive dark tone. Although it was not as large as some other bass voices, he had no trouble making an impact in big auditoria, like the San Francisco Opera. Owing to his stage presence and dramatic temperament, he was a worthy heir to the grand tradition of Slavonic basses exemplified by Fyodor Stravinsky, Lev Sibiriakov, Vladimir Kastorsky, Feodor Chaliapin, Alexander Kipnis and Mark Reizen, among others. He sang mostly in Verdi and the Russian repertoire, and was also a refined performer of vocal chamber music. Among his most famous roles were those of Tsar Boris (Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov ), Philip II (Verdi - Don Carlo ), Mephistopheles (Gounod - Faust and Boito - Mefistofele ), Ivan Susanin (Glinka - A Life for the Tsar ), Zaccaria (Verdi - Nabucco ), Tsar Ivan (Rimsky-Korsakov - Ivan the Terrible ), Dosifei (Mussorgsky - Khovanshchina ), Gomez da Silva (Verdi - Ernani ), Fiesco (Verdi - Simon Boccanegra ), Attila (Verdi - Attila ), Padre Guardiano (Verdi - La forza del destino ), Galitzky and Kontchak (Borodin - Prince Igor ) and others.

Fyodor Stravinsky Russian opera singer

Fyodor Ignatievich Stravinsky, 20 June [O.S. 8 June] 1843, in Golovintsy, Minsk Governorate – 4 December [O.S. 21 November] 1902) was a Russian bass opera singer and actor of Polish descent. He was the father of Igor Stravinsky and the grandfather of Théodore Strawinsky and Soulima Stravinsky.

Feodor Chaliapin Russian opera singer and actor

Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin was a Russian opera singer. Possessing a deep and expressive bass voice, he enjoyed an important international career at major opera houses and is often credited with establishing the tradition of naturalistic acting in his chosen art form.

Alexander Kipnis was a Ukrainian-born operatic bass. Having initially established his artistic reputation in Europe, Kipnis became an American citizen in 1931, following his marriage to an American. He appeared often at the Chicago Opera before making his belated début at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1940.

Christoff made studio recordings of eight operas (Don Carlo, Boris Godunov and Faust twice each) and numerous live recordings (radio or stage performances). He was much admired as song singer and he recorded more than 200 Russian songs by Mussorgsky (he was the first to record all his 63 songs), Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, Borodin, Cui, Balakirev as well as traditional songs, mostly with piano accompaniment. He initiated the tradition of making studio recordings of Boris Godunov with the same basso singing three roles (Boris, Varlaam, Pimen).

While he was a grand performer on stage, Christoff had difficult off-stage relations with fellow singers and producers, which sometimes grew into public scandals. In 1955 he fell out with Maria Callas during the performances of Medea at the Rome Opera and in 1961 his contract with La Scala was terminated after an open conflict with fellow Bulgarian Nicolai Ghiaurov whom Christoff blamed for collaborating with the Bulgarian communist regime. Herbert von Karajan tried to make him sing the title role in Don Giovanni which would have been inappropriate for his range; this prompted him to sever relations with von Karajan.[ citation needed ]

He was the brother-in-law of the Italian baritone Tito Gobbi.

A Monument of Boris Christoff near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria Monument of Boris Christoff, Sofia.jpg
A Monument of Boris Christoff near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria

Recordings

Many recordings are available. The following list contains just a few.

Awards

Honors

Notes

  1. Kozinn, Allan (June 29, 1993). "Boris Christoff, Bass, Dies at 79; Esteemed for His Boris Godunov". The New York Times.
  2. Forbes, Elizabeth (29 June 1993). "Obituary: Boris Christoff". The Independent.
  3. Christoff Cliff SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica

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