June 9, 2004 by

Nicolai Ghiaurov


Categories: Musicians

nghiaurov.jpg“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.”

21 Responses to Nicolai Ghiaurov

  1. roberto

    addio Maestro
    La tua voce, come il ricordo della tua cortesia e gentilezza rimarranno per sempre
    per noi che restiamo, un vuoto enorme, un graande ricordo e una inguaribile tristezza

  2. William Naddle

    He sounded like the voice of God! First heard him in the Faust recording with Sutherland as a kid, was one of the reasons I fell in love with opera. He will be missed and my condolences to his wonderful wife, the brilliant Mirella Freni.

  3. Wei-chin Chen

    Dear Maestro,
    It’s a great pity that I couldn’t know your art completely in time. I just hate I should be so young and never be granted to have a chance to see you on stage. You will be remembered always for your enormous singing.

  4. Carlos J. Woodward

    As in the rest of the world, opera-lovers in Brazil also feel a personal loss with the double passing of singer Nicolai Ghiaurov and of the gentleman Nicolai Ghiaurov.
    As an old (I am also 74) classic music critic in our Brazilian newspapers & newsmagazines, allow me to represent a great many devoted admirers of the couple to express our most heartfelt sentiments to Signora Mirella Freni.
    Carlos J. Woodward.

  5. jorge moncagatti

    i’m a chorister at colon theater of buenos aires ,isaw him in don carlo and faust was really imposing figure and the voice like a thunder at C,D.THANKS GOD because ilived on his time.

  6. Jonathan Deutsch

    My former voice teacher in New York, Franco Iglesias sang Valentin to his Mephistopheles in Phildelphia. Said he was the scariest,most commanding, nicest man he ever met. He taught me the most about line through his recordings. I listen to him for everything vocal.
    Jonathan Deutsch, principal bass, The U.S. Army Chorus, Washington, D.C.

  7. Mary Szterpakiewicz

    I had the privilege to see and hear the thunderous, magnificent voice of Nicolai Ghiarov. Because my father too sang the role of Mephistophiles in Faust, I was drawn to the rich, enveloping, and mesmerizing voice of Nicolai Ghiaurov. His voice was a gift to all of us and will surely be missed. I was honored to see Ghiaurov and Freni perform Faust at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago along with Alfredo Kraus. I will never, ever, forget it!

  8. Richard Webb

    I will never forget the magnificent voice on my Karajan “Boheme” cassettes that, as a child, made such an impression on me. Many opera sets (and years) later, my soul is still stirred by this wonderful artist, my favorite basso.

  9. Marco Gemini

    Mi sono innamorato della lirica ascoltando la sua voce, riconoscibile tra mille, come solo per i Giganti del Canto avviene. Ebbi la fortuna di vederlo ed ascoltarlo come Filippo II a Bologna e quel ricordo non morir

  10. Mark Decker

    I learned only recently that Mr. Ghiaurov had passed. A sad, sad loss for the opera world. He was truly a magnificent artist, and his voice was one of the mightiest bassos ever recorded. If I ever need to demonstrate to an opera initiate what a great basso sounds like, I’ll just reach for a recording of Ghiaurov.

  11. denis

    Cher Monsieur, merci pour votre art, pour avoir su le transmettre aussi bien et avec tellement de beauté. Vous serez toujours parmi nous. Dear Sir, thank you for the transmission of your art. You’ll stay with us by the way of your voice.

  12. G. Akcay

    To the best bass of all, my idol! I never had the honor of seeing you on stage but hearing you; feeling the very depth of your soul through your voice, I have gotten to know you.
    I miss you immensely… You will always be with me; in my heart, in my soul…

  13. john rose

    I saw my very first opera at La Scala Milan in,I think,1960. Mr Ghiarov sang Don Basilio in “The Barber of Seville”. He only had to walk on stage and the whole performance stopped for a couple of minutes. As for his voice!…..I’ve loved it and the whole world of opera ever since. I have just come from listening to his recording (Fiesco) of “Simon Boccanegra”. That rolling basso cantabile! Is there any singer out there today to match it?! I think not.

  14. Sue Cuthbertson

    Your beautiful,powerful bass voice was one of the reasons I fell in love with opera about 35 years ago when I heard you sing in the famous recording of ‘Lucia’ with Joan Sutherland.I had never heard a bass voice of that calibre before!
    I had the good fortune to hear you sing Mephistopheles with Mirella Freni and Alfredo Kraus at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. I felt your warm, resonant voice leaping over the stage and wrapping the audience up in its powerful,velvety tones!
    I am glad you made so many wonderful recordings – that you are still with us.

  15. M. Bellini

    Anche se in ritardo, mi unisco al coro di coloro che amano la lirica e la stupenda voce di Nicolai Ghiaurov, capace di emozionare ogni volta che la si ascolta. Grazie, Maestro!

  16. M. Landon

    I went on my first date with the woman who would be my wife on February 14th, 1995. We went to the Metropolitan Opera to hear Il Barbiere Di Siviglia with Jennifer Larmore. Ghiaurov’s Don Basilio was so distinct that it could be picked easily out of the ensembles and shined through every chorus. I fell in love with his voice that day. It has never left me. Addio Maestro Nicolai, Addio.

  17. mckavitt

    I can hardly add to what has been written here in tribute to the great basso that Niolai Ghiaurov was, except to say I am glad he found a soulmate in the warm, gorgeous soprano, the ever-delightful Mirelli Freni who, even now, years later, must miss him v. much. My love to you both.

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