The bass, Nicolai Ghiaurov, was born in Velingrad on 13 September 1929. As a child he sang in a church choir where he was discovered to have had an exceptional voice. After beginning his vocal studies in Sofia with Christo Brambarov he completed studies in Leningrad and Moscow.
1955 proved to be an important year in his career, first in winning First Prize in a vocal competition in Paris and then in his stage debut at the Sofia National Opera as Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville. In 1957, following a guest appearance as Ramfis at the Vienna State Opera additional engagements took him to the Bolshoi and to La Scala as Boris Godunov and Phillip in Don Carlo. A performance in Forza del Destino brought him to London and Covent Garden in 1962. Since 1962, he as been a regular soloist with the Vienna State Opera. At the Arena di Verona, engagements from 1961 to 1964 led to performances at the Salzburg Festivals of 1965-66 as Boris Godunov conducted by Herbert von Karajan. At the Paris Grand Opéra he sang the title role of Don Quichotte in 1974. His debut in the United States was at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1964 followed by his debut at the Metropolitan Opera on 8 November 1965 as Mefistofele in Faust. At the Met additional roles included Philip in Don Carlo, Fiesco and Padre Guardiano in Forza del Destino. Additional appearances in the United States included Houston and San Francisco. In 1990-91 he returned to the Met as Boris Godunov.
He is married to the famous Italian soprano, Mirella Freni.
Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov "Farewell and
Death of Boris"
Rossini: Barber of Seville La calunnia
Verdi: Don Carlo "Act IV Scene 1" with Pavel Manolov (Inquisitor)
An interesting comparison of his voice over a thirty-five year period is
provided in two versions of Khrennikov's "Song of the Drunk" from
1961 and 1996
From the same concert in 1996, we hear him in
Dobri Christov: Haidoushka Pesen (Revolutionary Song)
We are pleased also to present him here in excerpts of Attila
As this disc is being prepared, Nicolai Ghiaurov has been on stage for more than forty-five years. Even today, when the glorious sound of his voice has been lost, he offers style and authority. His first recording to appear in the West was a solo disc in 1962; then 35, he was a remarkably mature artist with an astonishing voice for one so young. Yet one always wonders: what was he like before we knew him?
The earliest selection I have of Ghiaurov dates from 1954, a live
performance of a song by Cui which was apparently preserved (then improved to
where it is nearly unlistenable) by Soviet engineers. Two years later, he
recorded a 78-rpm disc on which his voice is unmistakable despite the surface
Rachmaninov: I'm Lonely Again
In the 1961 Moscow concert from which we hear the Khrennikov selection
above, he also sang
Shostakovitch: Day of Recollections
The following year, his solo disc of Russian and Italian bass arias from Decca/London introduced this great artist to the Western world. We have been wise enough to keep him in our sights ever since.