Probably the best known of all Bulgarian opera singers is the bass, Boris Christoff, born in Plovdiv on 18 May 1914. He began a career in law but after being heard in the famous Gusla Choir by King Boris he was sent to Rome to study with Riccardo Stracciari in 1942. Vocal studies continued in 1943 with Muratti in Salzburg. After being released from a refugee camp following World War Two he began his career as a concert singer in Italy. His debut was at the Teatro Adriano in Rome singing Colline in 1946. In 1947 he sang the two bass roles of Pimen and Boris Godunov with the La Scala in Milan. In 1950 he began a glorious ten-year career with the La Scala where he sang most of the major bass characters in the Italian, French and Russian repertoire.
Additional international appearances included Milan in 1947 where he sang Pimen, Covent Garden in 1949, Paris in 1953 and Salzburg in 1960. Singing in Florence in 1961 he was a partner of Maria Callas in a production of I Vespri Siciliani.
In 1950 Boris Christoff was engaged to sing Philip in a new production of
Don Carlo by the Metropolitan Opera in the United States. Unfortunately,
he was unable to obtain an entry visa because he was a citizen of Communist
Bulgaria. His debut in the U.S. was singing Boris with the San Francisco Opera
in 1956. Regular appearances followed with the Chicago Lyric Opera between 1958
The major roles of his vast career included most of the bass characters of Verdi including Phillip, Fiesco, the Padre in Forza del Destino; the Mefistofeles of Gounod and Boito; Konchak, Boris, Dosifey in the Russian repertoire and King Marke and Gurnemanz in the operas of Richard Wagner. He sang Boris in over 400 performances. Boris Christoff never sang an opera in his native Bulgaria because of political reasons. He died in Rome on June 29th, 1993.
He was able through his personal magnetism and theatrical skills, to generate tension whenever he was on stage. His dramatic powers, and his ability to give words their fullest meaning, and expressive weight, placed him among the great singer actors of his day.
Boito: Mefistofele Son lo spirito che nega
Gounod: Faust Le veau d'or
Gounod: Faust "Serenade of Mefistofele"
Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov "Farewell and Death of Boris"
Rossini: Barber of Seville La calunnia
Verdi: Simon Boccanegra A te l'estremo addio
Verdi: Don Carlo Ella giammai m'amo
Wagner: Parsifal Titurel, der fromme Held