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The Russian opera singer Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin () (February 13 (February 1, Old Style), 1873–April 12, 1938) was the most famous bass in the first half of the 20th century. Because of his powerful and flexible voice, together with his mesmerizing stage presence and his superb acting ability, he is considered one of the greatest performers in the history of opera, and he is credited with establishing the tradition of naturalistic acting in opera.
Chaliapin was born in Ímet Tawı, Kazan. Largely self-taught, he began his career at Tbilisi and the Imperial Opera, St. Petersburg in 1894; he was then invited to sing at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, where he appeared regularly from 1899 to 1914.
From 1901, Chaliapin begin appearing the West, making his debut at La Scala that year in a production of Boito's Mefistofele under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, who at the end of career observed that the Russian bass was the greatest operatic talent with whom he had ever worked. The singer's Metropolitan Opera debut in the 1907 season was said to have been unspectacular, but he returned in 1921 and sang there with immense success for eight seasons. In 1913, Chaliapin was introduced to London and Paris by Diaghilev, at which point he began giving well-received solo recitals in which he also performed traditional Russian folk songs.
After the Russian Revolution, Chaliapin was at first treated as a distinguished artist of the Soviet Union, but disagreement with the Soviet government caused him to remain outside Russia after 1921, although he maintained that he was not anti-Soviet.
Chaliapin's most famous role was the title role of Boris Godunov (excerpts of which he recorded 1929-31), but is remembered for Ivan the Terrible in Rimsky-Korsakov's Maid of Pskov, Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust, Massenet's Don Quichote, and Bertram in Meyerbeer's Robert le diable. Thanks to his famous performances, Russian operas like Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, Glinka's Ivan Susanin, Borodin's Prince Igor and Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride became well known in the West.
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