On February 1 (13), 1873, in the family of Ivan Chaliapin, a clerk of the county zemstvo council in the Kazan province, in the wing of the house of the merchant Lisitsin on Rybnoryadskaya Street (now Pushkin Street), a son was born who happened to become an unsurpassed bass of the world stage, subjected to a master who glorified Russian opera on the whole world. The next day he was baptized in the nearby Church of the Epiphany and received the name Fedor.
The boy inherited his love for music from his mother, who “sadly, thoughtfully and at the same time busily” sang while spinning, sewing, mending and washing clothes. From her, Fyodor Ivanovich Chaliapin drew both heroic strength and great diligence.
Then there was an acquaintance with a street bagan – the charm of a bohemian life, and singing in a church choir – the first earnings of a musician, bringing one and a half rubles a month. A lot of time will pass, there will be many thorns on the way, until the singer finds his benefactors and glory.
Fyodor Chaliapin began his career as a professional singer in Tbilisi and the Imperial Opera of St. Petersburg in 1894. Then he was invited to sing in Mamontov’s Private Opera (1896-1899) for the role of Mephistopheles in Gounod’s Faust.
Soon the singer learned all the other roles and parts, which he recorded again. Dreams came true both at Mamontov’s Private Opera, and at the Bolshoi Theater and Zimin’s Private Opera in Moscow. After 1901, the whole world gradually opened up to Chaliapin – we observe foreign tours at La Scala (Italy), followed by the Metropolitan Opera (USA), London, Paris, where he visited in the subsequent Russian seasons of Diaghilev, and other countries. In 1921, the singer was robbed and forced to settle abroad forever.
Fyodor Chaliapin, a chosen man of peasant origin, of Russian folk hardening, found his love with foreigners. His first chosen one was the granddaughter of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the ballerina Iola Tornaghi (her mother Giuseppina was accidentally born the daughter of the Italian president), a representative of the Sicilian aristocratic family. Married in 1898, the couple had six children.
Iola gave a lot to her husband, without her there would be no Chaliapin’s skill and fame. Throughout his life, the singer retains great respect for his wife-friend, despite the fact that he had his first family with the German Maria Petsold (they married in 1927) and three side children.
Fedor Chaliapin became a popularizer of Russian musical culture in the West. Through his efforts, the world learned and fell in love with the operas Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina by Mussorgsky, Ivan Susanin by Glinka, Prince Igor by Borodin and The Tsar’s Bride and Sadko by Rimsky-Korsakov. The singer’s fees were fabulous, he set the highest rates and only repeated: “The birds sing for free.”
Chaliapin’s last performance was at the Monte Carlo Opera in 1937, singing Tsar Boris. In 1838, the Russian bass died of leukemia at the age of 65 in Paris, where he was buried. However, in 1984, his remains were transferred from Paris to Moscow and reburied at the Novodevichy cemetery.
After 7 years, Fedor Ivanovich was returned his title of People’s Artist of the RSFSR, exclusive in connection with the flight from the “proletarian paradise”, but not confiscated property earned by honest and hard work. The descendants of Fyodor Ivanovich live in Europe. They love Russia, but from afar.