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Lev Sibiriyakov, Russian Bass-Baritone

By June 3, 2021March 19th, 2023No Comments

There are some voices that you hear, even in very early recordings, and you know that the artist is special. Sibiryakov is one of those artists. The breath control, the openness of the sound, the legato, and the consistent lack of squezzing the throat were remarkable, given the beautiful nature of his voice.

Generally speaking Russian singers in the 19th century received training from outside of Russia. Either the teachers went to Russia or the students went to the teachers in the West. There was a craze for western opera to a point where Russian audiences did not know who the Russian composers were. It seems that most of the influx of westerners and the sending of Russian artists abroad was paid for by the Russian Court.

The first great Russian composer to exploit native Russian music traditions into the realm of secular music was Mikhail Glinka (1804–1857), who composed the early Russian language operas Ivan Susanin and Ruslan and Lyudmila. They were neither the first operas in the Russian language nor the first by a Russian, but they gained fame for relying on distinctively Russian tunes and themes and being in the vernacular.

Lev Sibiryav – Prence Gremln’s aria from the Third Act of Eugene Onegin by Tolstoy.

Just a small comment. I dislike posting in Russian, primarily because I don’t speak or read a word of the language, and I have to rely on outside translation software to do the brunt of the work. I do feel that it is important to give the transliteration so that my listeners will at least know the sounds that the singers are trying to make. This particular bass-baritone was a living treasure of the Russian Empire. I don’t know if they treated him as such, but he certainly deserved to be treated in this way. The voice just astounds you, and when you consider that the recording dates from 1908, it is even more astounding.

Любви все возрасты покорны,
Ее порывы благотворны
И юноше в расцвете лет
Едва увидевшему свет,
И закаленному судьбой
Бойцу с седою головой!

Онегин, я скрывать не стану,
Безумно я люблю Татьяну!
Тоскливо жизнь моя текла;
Она явилась и зажгла,
Как солнца луч среди ненастья,
Мне жизнь, и молодость,
Да, молодость, да, молодость и счастье!

Lyubvi vse vozrasty pokorny,
Yeye poryvy blagotvorny
I yunoshe v rastsvete let
Yedva uvidevshemu svet,
I zakalennomu sud’boy
Boytsu s sedoyu golovoy!

Onegin, ya skryvat’ ne stanu,
Bezumno ya lyublyu Tat’yanu!
Tosklivo zhizn’ moya tekla;
Ona yavilas’ i zazhgla,
Kak solntsa luch sredi nenast’ya,
Mne zhizn’, i molodost’,
Da, molodost’, da, molodost’ i schast’ye!

Love is no respecter of age,
its transports bless alike
those in the bloom of youth
yet unacquainted with the world
and the grey?headed warrior
tempered by experience!

Onegin, I shan’t disguise the fact
that I love Tatyana to distraction!
My life was slipping drearily away;
she appeared and brightened it
like a ray of sunlight in a stormy sky,
and brought me life and youth, yes, youth and happiness!

Yes, it’s true. I have managed to drive myself crazy. The only thing that I can be sure about in this text is the German. Everything else is derived from that. I wasn’t working from Russian or English translations, and I do hope that some of the Russian text is what Sibiryakov is actually singing. It would take a Russian singer to really know, but this the best that I can do.

Прощай, смелый
чудесный ребенок!
ярчайшая гордость!
До свидания Прощай! прощание!

Я должен избегать тебя
и не должно быть миннигом,
мои приветствия приветствую вас еще
дай мне медовуху во время еды;
Я должен проиграть
ты, кого я люблю
ты смеёшься радостью моих глаз:
свадебный костер
должен сжечь тебя сейчас,
сгорела как никогда невеста!
Пылающие угли
несчастный рок;
с потреблением
отпугнуть его;
Рок Брюнгильды!
Потому что одна только свободная только невеста освобождает,
свободнее меня, бог!

Пара сияющих глаз
что я часто улыбался,
если Кемпфеслюст
поцелуй стоил твоего времени,
когда болтает по-детски
похвала героя
из прекрасных уст текла от тебя
эта пара сияющих глаз
что часто светила в грозу,
мое сердце обожжено
мое желание жаждало мирового блаженства
от дико плетеного страха:
в последний раз
последнее для меня сегодня
до свидания
последний поцелуй!
блесни его лбом:
должен закрыть это в разводе

Proshchay, smelyy
chudesnyy rebenok!
yarchayshaya gordost’!
Do svidaniya Proshchay! proshchaniye!

YA dolzhen izbegat’ tebya
i ne dolzhno byt’ minnigom,
moi privetstviya privetstvuyu vas yeshche
day mne medovukhu vo vremya yedy;
YA dolzhen proigrat’
ty, kogo ya lyublyu
ty smeyosh’sya radost’yu moikh glaz:
svadebnyy koster
dolzhen szhech’ tebya seychas,
sgorela kak nikogda nevesta!
Pylayushchiye ugli
neschastnyy rok;
s potrebleniyem
otpugnut’ yego;
Rok Bryungil’dy!
Potomu chto odna tol’ko svobodnaya tol’ko nevesta osvobozhdayet,
svobodneye menya, bog!

Para siyayushchikh glaz
chto ya chasto ulybalsya,
yesli Kempfeslyust
potseluy stoil tvoyego vremeni,
kogda boltayet po-detski
pokhvala geroya
iz prekrasnykh ust tekla ot tebya
eta para siyayushchikh glaz
chto chasto svetila v grozu,
moye serdtse obozhzheno
moye zhelaniye zhazhdalo mirovogo blazhenstva
ot diko pletenogo strakha:
v posledniy raz
posledneye dlya menya segodnya
do svidaniya
posledniy potseluy!
blesni yego lbom:
dolzhen zakryt’ eto v razvode

Leb’ wohl, du kühnes,
herrliches Kind!
helligster Stolz!
Leb’ wohl! Leb’wohl! Leb’wohl!

(segh leidenschaftlinch)
Muss ich dich meiden,
und darf nicht minnig,
mein Gruss dich mehr grüssen
noch Met beim Mahl mir reichen;
muss ich velieren
dich, die ich liebe.
du lachende Lust meines Auges:
ein bräutliches Feuer
soll dir nun brennen,
wie nie einer Braut es gebrannt!
Flammende Glut
unglühe dem Fels;
mit zehrenden
scheuch’ es den Zagen;
der Feige fliehe
Brünnhildes Fels!
Denn einer nur freir nur frie die Braut,
der freier als ich, der Gott!

Der Augen leuchtendes Paar,
das oft ich lächelnd gekost,
wenn Kempfeslust
ein Kuss dir lohnte,
wenn kindlisch lallend
der Helden Lob
von holden Lippen dir floss
dieser Augen strahlendes Paar
das öft im Sturm mir geglänzt,
das Herz mir sengte,
nach Weltenwonne mein Wunsch verlangte
aus wild webendem Bangen:
zum letztenmal
letz’ es mich heute
mit des Lebewohles
letztem Kuss!
Dem glüchlichem Manne
glänze sein Stirn:
dem unseligen
muss es scheidend schliessen.

Farewell you bold
wonderful child!
brightest pride!
Goodbye Goodbye! farewell!

(sigh passionately)
Do I have to avoid you
and must not be loving,
my greetings greet you more
give me mead at mealtimes;
I have to lose
you i love
you laughing pleasure of my eyes:
a bridal fire
should burn you now,
burned like never before a bride!
Flaming embers
unhappy the rock;
with consuming
frighten it away;
frighten the fire from
Brünnhilde’s rock!
Because one only free only free the bride,
the freer than me, the god!

Thy brightly glittering eyes,
that, smiling, oft I caressed,
when valor won a kiss as guerdon,
when childish lispings of heroes’ praise
from sweetest lips has flowed forth:
those gleaming radiant eyes
that oft in storms on me shone,
when hopeless yearning my heart had wasted,
when world’s delights all my wishes wakened,
thro’ wild wildering sadness:

once more today, lured by their light,
my lips shall give them love’s farewell!
On mortal more blessed once may they beam:
on me, hapless immortal,
must they close now forever.


О, сладкая весна минувших лет, зелёные сезоны,
Вы уплыли навсегда!
Я больше не вижу лазури небесной
Я больше не слышу счастливого пения птиц

Унося моё счастье, моё счастье
О, возлюбленная, Ты ушла!
И весна возвращается зря!

Да, без возврата,
С тобой, весёлое солнце,
Весёлые дни минули!
Как в моём сердце всё темно и заморожено!
Всё увяло навсегда!


O, sladkaya vesna minuvshikh let, zelonyye sezony,
Vy uplyli navsegda!
YA bol’she ne vizhu lazuri nebesnoy
YA bol’she ne slyshu schastlivogo peniya ptits

Unosya moyo schast’ye, moyo schast’ye
O, vozlyublennaya, Ty ushla!
I vesna vozvrashchayetsya zrya!

Da, bez vozvrata,
S toboy, vesoloye solntse,
Vesolyye dni minuli!
Kak v moyom serdtse vso temno i zamorozheno!
Vso uvyalo navsegda!


Ô, doux printemps d’autrefois, vertes saisons,
Vous avez fui pour toujours!
Je ne vois plus le ciel bleu;
Je n’entends plus les chants joyeux des oiseaux!

En emportant mon bonheur, mon bonheur…
Ô bien-aimé, tu t’en es allé!
Et c’est en vain que revient le printemps!

Oui, sans retour,
Avec toi, le gai soleil,
Les jours riants sont partis!
Comme en mon coeur tout est sombre et glacé!
Tout est flétri pour toujours!


O sweet springtimes of old verdant seasons
You have fled forever
I no longer see the blue sky
I no longer hear the bird’s joyful singing

And, taking my happiness with you
You have gone on your way, my love!
In vain Spring returns

Yes, never to return
The bright sun has gone with you
The joyful days have gone
How gloomy and cold is my heart
All is withered forever

Jules Massenet, in full Jules-Émile-Frédéric Massenet, was born on May 12, 1842, Montaud, near Saint-Étienne, France and died on August 13, 1912, Paris)

Regarding Massenet’s incidental music, particularly notable is that for Leconte de Lisle’s play Les Érinnyes (1873; The Furies), which contains the widely performed song “Élégie.” In 1873 he also produced his oratorio, Marie-Magdeleine, later performed as an opera. This work exemplifies the mingling of religious feeling and eroticism often found in Massenet’s music. Massenet also composed more than 200 songs, a piano concerto, and several orchestral suites.


Since the advent of sound recordings at the end of the 19th Century devotees of Vocal-Art have been fascinated by the voices of the great singers who were primarily active in the opera houses of Imperial Russia. Since comparatively few of these legendary singers made careers in the West, most could only be judged by their recordings – which were always very hard to find. This rarity perhaps lent them an air of mystery. It also encouraged comparisons with I Grandi Nomi; those with whom the cognoscenti and opera lovers in Western Europe and the Americas were more familiar. Many fine Russian singers learnt their vocal technique and singing style from Italian and French masters and performances in Imperial Russia were dominated by the standard Italian, French and German repertory. In addition guest artists – always the most distinguished singers from Western Europe – performed the popular repertoire repeatedly in Moscow and St. Petersburg. It is no surprise that the development of a uniquely Russian school was inhibited for so long. With a few exceptions, scant attention was given to the Russian operas then being composed. Lev Sibiryakov, however, was one of a small handful of Russian singers who appeared abroad, in the standard repertoire; he also promoted operas written by late 19th century Russian composers, and he recorded music that was to become a core element of an emerging Russian musical heritage. Lev Sibiryakov was born in 1869 in St. Petersburg and first sang in a synagogue choir as a boy. His voice developed well (as did his physique – he was six-foot-six tall) and he was sent to Italy, where, like the famous Russian dramatic tenor Ivan Yershov (1867-1943), he studied with the noted teacher Rossi, in Milan. Sibiryakov made some appearances in Italy, but, on returning to Russia he made swift progress through various provincial opera houses, including Tiflis, Kharkov, Kiev and Baku, and eventually gained a contract to sing at the Marinsky (now Kirov) opera. His debut there was in 1895, singing the popular German and Italian repertory and some Russian works. In 1910 Sibiryakov was invited to take part in a season in Boston under the direction of Henry Russell.