Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

May 10, 2015

Vasili Petrov (Bass) (Kharkov Governorate, Russian Empire 1875 - Moscow, USSR 1937)

He was born into the large family of a village tailor. His musical abilities were evident from an early age: he learned to play the violin at the age of five, and at the age of nine he was learning to play the violin professionally, as well as singing in a choir. He graduated from a ministerial free school for the poor and began to work as a teacher. Soon after, he moved to Kharkov. In 1894, he injured a finger, preventing him from pursuing a career as a violinist. However, he still had one musical passion - singing. At the end of 1894, Vasily Petrov became a chorister with the Kharkov Cathedral. In 1895 he joined a provincial Ukrainian private Opera company, fulfilling his wish to become an operatic artist. In 1898, one of his friends asked the Directorate of the Moscow Conservatory about interviewing Vasily Petrov. Consequently, Petrov was immediately enrolled to study at the Moscow Conservatory under supervision of Anton Bartzal. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1902 and was immediately accepted into the Moscow Imperial Troup (Bolshoi Theatre) where he performed in concerts. In 1899, Petrov, who was still merely a student in the first stage of his course, replaced the ill Chaliapin as Dosifey in the opera ‘’Khovanshchina’’ in Mamontov's Private Russian Opera company. Thus began the friendship of the two great Russian bass singers. Petrov played the role of Dosifey again in 1910 with the Zimin Opera company. During and after the revolution of 1917, he managed to retain his position at the Bolshoi Theatre due to having come from a working-class background. From 1923, as the result of complications from having contracted malaria, both of Petrov's legs atrophied leaving him reliant on prostheses in order to walk, but this did not deter him from actively performing onstage. At the invitation of Constantin Stanislavski, Petrov taught at the Stanislavski Opera studio from 1925 to 1929. He also taught at other music institutions and continued his work at the Bolshoi theatre until 1936. His last performance was at the Bolshoi theatre in June 1936 as Vasily Sobakin in the opera ‘’The Tsar's bride’’ by N. Rimsky-Korsakov. During his career, Petrov sang in 87 different operatic roles at Bolshoi theatre. Vasily Rodionovich Petrov remains for posterity as one of the greatest representatives of Russian vocal art. His grandson, Nikolai Arnoldovich Petrov (1943-2011), was known as an outstanding pianist. Feodor Chaliapin once commented to him, "Ah, Vasya, if I could have your voice.". This jocular remark bore testament to Vasily Petrov's undeniable talent.

Chronology of some appearances

1902-1936 Moscow Bolshoi Theatre
1909 Berlin Kroll Theatre
1910 Moscow Zimin Opera
1911 Opéra de Monte-Carlo
1912 Opéra de Monte-Carlo


The evening's golden clounds (Dargomyzhsky) with Nikolai Rostovsky and Maria Tsybuschenko 45340
Faust (Gounod): Duo with Nikolai Rostovsky 45339
A Life for the Tzar (Glinka): Nikolai Rostovsky and Maria Tsybuschenko 45341

Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini): La calunia 20553
Don Quixote (Massenet): Quand apparaissent les etoiles 20554
How the king went to war (Koenemann) 21838
On the old burial mound  (Vasily Kalinnikov, Lyrics by I.S. Nikitin) 20370

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