30 June 2014, Monday
Today, on June 30th, we mark the 140th anniversary of Vladimir A. Lossky, an Honored Artist of RSFSR.
He was born in 1874 in Kiev into the family of a railway engineer. His mother was a pianist, so Vladimir started learning about music from her. When he was in the last years of his studies at the gymnasium, he grew fond of opera and used to watch performances of the Kiev opera almost every day. In 1893 he took private singing lessons with professor Camillo Everardy; in 1897-1899 he studied in his class in the music college. Later Vladimir Lossky mastered his skills in Italy; when he was the Bolshoi Theatre's soloist, he studied in Paris for four months.
Following his father's wishes, he graduated from the law faculty of the Kiev University in 1899.
In 1899 Lossky followed the advice of S.N. Kruglikov and joined the company of the Moscow Private Russian Opera. In the seasons of 1899-1900 and during 1905-1906 he sang at that theatre. He also worked in Kiev from 1901 till 1905. Under the guidance of S.I. Mamontov he prepared the role of Mephistopheles ("Faust"). Over this period of time Vladimir Lossky got quite a large repertoire; he sang more than 30 roles, including such roles, as Susanin, King Rene, Don Bazilio, Varlaam, Andrei Dubrovsky, Ivan the Terrible, Leporello ("Don Giovanni"), Zuniga and others.
V. Lossky did not have a very strong and powerful voice; however, he continued to master his skills and was very musical. The artist himself considered that "acting, but not singing" was the most important in his performance. Critics took notice of his bright acting talent.
In 1906 Lossky became a Bolshoi Theatre soloist.
He performed in 605 performances on the Bolshoi's stage and sang 23 roles, including Duda ("Sadko", 1906), Leporello ("The Stone Guest", 1906), Brander ("La damnation de Faust" by H. Berlioz, 1907), Shepard ("A Winter's Tale" by Goldmark, 1909), Clerk ("May Night", 1909), Sancho Panza ("Don Quichotte" by J. Massenet, 1910), Schaunard ("La bohème", 1911), Guillot ("Manon", 1915) and others.
A.N. Nezhdanova and N.S. Golovanov remembered: "Lossky did not have a strong and powerful voice, but his unique musicality, wonderful articulation and bright acting skills made him an outstanding actor-singer". His acting skills showed best of all when he performed character and comic parts.
"Each of the parts that Lossky performed was a complete and holistic image, be it a pompous, stuck up and stupid Lord Cockburnin "Fra Diavolo", a dandy and stuck up Zuniga, shifty and cunning Skula, incredibly jealous and malignant Bartolo or the Clerk in "May Night" that looks like a character from some novel by Gogol. He was a wonderful musician; he could understand and interpret all the special features of an author's style. He interpreted characters in operas by Glinka, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and other composers very well".
After 1917 Vladimir A. Lossky performed in chamber concerts. He was especially well-known for his performance of romances of A.S. Dargomyzhsky and M.P. Mussorgsky.
In 1909 Lossky made his debut at the Bolshoi Theatre as a director. He staged the opera "The Prisoner of the Caucasus" by César Cui, starring L.V. Sobinov.
Vladimir Lossky staged 104 productions in different cities of the USSR, including 25 productions in Moscow, at the Bolshoi Theatre. He was the Bolshoi Theatre's chief stage director in 1920-1928; from 1934 till 1936 and from 1943 till 1946 he was the Bolshoi Theatre's stage director.
The style of Lossky the director was not formed at once. In the beginning of his career as a director he based his work on his own acting experience. He had a great creative imagination and sophisticated artistic taste. But sometimes the director's imagination was wild, and the experiments ended up as some trick. Sometimes in certain comic operas (for example, in "The Barber of Seville", 1917) Lossky tried to create some action for every music bar and came up with incredible pieces.
During 1920s he was searching for his own style. He had a tendency to stage monumental productions and make crowd scenes multidimensional. Critics considered "Aida" (1922) and "Lohengrin" (1923) to be his best productions of that period; they were spectacular, and it matched the music very well. In "Aida" the heroic theme was expressed by huge crowds of choir singers in the background of the monumental set and the powerful sound of the orchestra. In this production Lossky managed to make the choir act as one and move simultaneously. Critics mentioned that the production gave aesthetic pleasure and the "rhythmically organized crowd" had a great influence on the audience.
"Lohengrin" was one of Lossky's favorite operas; he returned to the production several times and changed it. The version of 1923 was static and monumental. There was a single set on the stage. The production was a success with the audience; the spectators liked the march to the church in the scene of Elsa's wedding, "when there were no more than 100 people of choir singers and supernumeraries, but it looked like there were at least 400 of them". However, it was difficult to sing and move in that production. It is interesting to know that participants of crowd scenes addressed the theatre administration and asked them to cancel the male choir march in the final act; they explained, that "the costumes were heavy, did not allow them to breathe in the right way and, therefore, preventing the singers from singing normally".
The director worked on Wagner's operas a lot; he was looking for new images that would express the spirit of the music. Lossky anticipated later productions of Wagner's operas in the West.
Lossky's main principle was his desire to achieve the unity of music, action and set. "He was very musical, he was also well-educated in different spheres and hard-working; he knew the large scale stage well and knew how to deal with it; he was very good at creating complicated compositions on the stage; he also knew how to organize crowds of people on the stage. He was a very sophisticated and demanding artist; when he came to the very first rehearsal, he already had a well-thought out plan; he then used every second of the precious rehearsal time to the maximum".
Following Lossky's initiative, supernumeraries appeared at the Bolshoi Theatre; it was the first time something like that happened in the history of opera. Today there still are supernumeraries at the Bolshoi.
Lossky was one of the founders of the new opera stage directing. His productions were about heroic actions and strong emotions; crowd scenes were multidimensional.
The production of "Boris Godunov" (1927) is the brightest and most holistic example of his new approach to the stage directing. This production astonished his contemporaries
with its scale and the unbelievable emotions that it expressed. "The theatre of grandiose ideas, emotions and sounds" together with Fyodorovsky created the Bolshoi Theatre's monumental style.
Over 47 years of his career Lossky used to stage some operas several times at different theatres; in every such case he tried to find a different interpretation, bearing in mind special features of a certain company and a certain theatre. He never repeated his productions completely; he changed something in them and added something to them every time. For example, he staged the opera "Aida" 9 times; it was a new variant of the performance every time. "Productions correspond to the demands of the epoch, and are not considered as something fixed and created forever".
Lossky also gave numerous talks to the general
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