Some Facts from the Life of Fedor Shalyapin

Opera Singer, born Feb. 13, 1873 in Kazan, Russia. Died April 12, 1938 of kidney complications ichaliapin_portrait-by-boris_kustodievn Paris, France.

Feodor Shalyapin (or: Chaliapin) was born into a peasant family in Kazan in 1873. At the age of 9 the boy, who had admired choir singing in a local church, was accepted into the choir and immediately displayed a wonderful voice and a perfect ear for music. The boy studied passionately and was given a scholarship for singing in the church. Later, he was sent to continue musical education in a private school of Vedernikova, but was excluded for kissing his class-mate.

His family did not see Fedor’s future as a singer, though. His father wanted him to become a shoemaker and young Shalyapin had to apprentice in his older brother’s shop for a few years, until he finally escaped to the capital and started building a career in singing and theatre acting.

shalyapin_avto

At the age of 17, in Russian Ufa, while performing his role in the opera “Halka”, Shalyapin accidentally missed the chair and fell on the stage. Since then, all his life long, he kept a sharp eye on every object on the stage, wherever he performed. After a few years of circuitous search of his own artistic personality, he finally acquired success in the Russian capital.

shalyapintornagi

Shalyapin’s personal life was quite complicated. He was married twice. He met his first wife, Italian ballerina Iola Tornagi (1873–1965), in Nizhny Novgorod. They married in Russia in 1898 and had six children. While married to Tornagi, Shalyapin lived with Marina Petsold (1882–1964), a widow who already had two children from her first marriage. She had three daughters with Shalyapin. His two families lived separately, one in Moscow and the other in Saint Petersburg, and did not interact. Shalyapin married Petsold in 1927 in Paris.

shaliapin_tall

Shalyapin was a very tall and strong man. Many of the singer’s contemporaries also noted the unprecedented power of voice. Once, after a performance, Leo Tolstoy shared his impressions about Shalyapin’s singing: “His singing is too loud.” Semyon Budyonny (the bolshevik cavalry commander and later and Soviet General in World War II), who met Shaliapin in a train once and had a bottle of champagne with him, remembered: “The car shuddered from his mighty bass.”

chaliapin_as_boris_godunov_artist_prokudin_gorsky

In 1918, soon after the Bolshevik revolution, Shalyapin took the position of artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre (do do this, he had to refuse a similar position at the Bolshoi Theatre) and received the first and the highest Soviet-time title of “People’s Artist of the Republic”. Though in his young years Shalyapin sympathized with the revolution, the bolsheviks were not very supportive of his unique talent. The new revolutionary authorities confiscated his house, his car, and his bank savings; there were numerous attempts to accuse his theater colleagues and his family members of not being loyal to revolution. Trying to protect the family and colleagues, Shalyapin met the highest leaders of the country, including Lenin and Stalin, but those meetings only brought a temporary relief. Finally, in 1922 the family decided to immigrate. Shalyapin with family left Russia and took a number of highly successful projects in Europe and America. In 1927, the Soviet authorities deprived him of the title of People’s Artist and of the right to return home.

Shalyapin was known as a very good painter and sculptor, as well. Many of his drawings were preserved to our time, including his self-portrait.

shaliapin_self-portrait

Shalyapin used to collect old weapons – pistols, rifles, spears. Many of them were presented to him by his friend A.Gorky (famous Russian – Soviet writer), who was a highly respected figure among the Soviet authorities. This friendship helped Shaliapin to keep his collection through a few attempts of local housing office to confiscate it.

In memory of his talent, a star with his name was installed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A recording of Shalyapin’s singing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M66eAMzQv8A

Sources:

http://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/feodor-chaliapin/

http://www.aif.ru/culture/person/istoriya_lyubvi_fedor_shalyapin_i_iola_tornagi

http://bibliotekar.ru/shalyapin/index.htm

and Wikipedia

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