“With the passing of Nicolai Ghiaurov, the world of music has lost a giant,” singer and conductor Placido Domingo said.
Ghiaurov, a Bulgarian opera singer who specialized in late 19th-century works, died on June 2 of a heart attack. He was 74.
Ghiaurov’s parents were poor, but they always encouraged him to sing. He learned to play the clarinet, violin and trombone on borrowed instruments. During his service in the Bulgarian Army, he formed a choir and conducted an orchestra.
Ghiaurov studied opera singing at the Sofia Musical Academy and the Moscow Conservatoire. After winning top prizes at opera festivals, the young singer returned to Bulgaria in 1955 and made his professional debut at the Sofia National Opera as Don Basilio in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”
Over the next four decades, Ghiaurov would fill theatres from Milan to Chicago, Warsaw to Paris. He sang a total of 81 performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and was the guest of honor at a gala performance in 1991 to commemorate his 25th anniversary with the company. The operatic bass, who often performed with his wife, Italian soprano Mirella Freni, was best known for playing Mephistopheles in Charles Gounod’s “Faust,” Philip II in Verdi’s “Don Carlo” and the title character in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”