February 01, 1998

Singing in Exile

Soviet writer Maxim Gorky once wrote that Fyodor Shalyapin – best known as an international opera singer – was a “more than humanly talented man.” And, while this may be a slight exaggeration, in a way he was right. Even without his great voice, Shalyapin’s height, energy, emotions and ability to make friends singled him out from the crowd, and his name was always linked with two adjectives – big and powerful. He was a citizen not only of Russia, but of the world.

The majority of Shalyapin’s 65 years belonged to Russia, and he lived through what was arguably the most difficult and interesting period of his country’s history. Although he performed all over the world and ultimately left his homeland, he always considered himself a son of Russia. “My life is hard,” wrote the singer, “but good! I have experienced moments of great happiness thanks to my art, which I love passionately. Love is always happiness, whatever we love, but love of art is the greatest happiness of our life.”

Humble Beginnings

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