04 July 2014, Friday
Today, on July 4th, we mark the 115th anniversary of Alexander S. Pirogov, a People's Artist of the USSR.
He was born in 1899 in Ryazan into a unique peasant family, where the grandfather, the father and the five sons were gifted with powerful and beautiful voices. The young son Alexander was passionate about singing even in his childhood and suffered from not having the possibility to sing in the church choir; he could not make his dream come true because his boyish voice was not set at that time. He started really singing at the age of 15; he had a very powerful bass voice. His elder brother Grigory, who was a leading soloist of the Mariinsky Theatre and the Bolshoi Theatre even before the revolution, had an influence on the singer's further development.
Alexander Pirogov started his opera career at a young age. When he was a student of the department of history and philology at the Moscow University and a student of the Philharmonic College at the same time, he started working at the Revolutionary War Council Theatre. At the age of 23 he had auditions at the former Zimin Theatre and was invited to join the company; in 2 years he was invited to work at the Bolshoi Theatre. Over the three decades that he worked there he astonished the audience with his bright and comprehensive talent. His unique skills and acting talent, the wide range, which allowed him to sing baritone and bass parts, and a special timbre - basso profundo - allowed Pirogov to have a varied repertoire that included about 35 parts. 25 parts out of those 35 were performed at the Bolshoi Theatre. Alexander Pirogov presented to the audience many characters, and each of them was deeply developed. The list of such characters includes The Miller ("Rusalka" by A. Dargomyzhsky), Galitsky ("Prince Igor" by A. Borodin), Méphistophélès ("Faust" by Ch. Gounod), Tsar Saltan ("The Tale of Tsar Saltan" by N. Rimsky-Korsakov), Don Basilio ("The Barber of Seville" by G. Rossini), Dosifey ("Khovanshchina" by M. Musorgsky), Ivan the Terrible ("The Maid of Pskov" by N. Rimsky-Korsakov), Ivan Susanin ("Ivan Susanin" by M. Glinka), Kutuzov ("War and Peace" by S. Prokofiev) and many others.
The part of Boris Godunov in the same-name opera by M. Musorgsky was the brightest example of his acting and vocal skills. He was awarded his second USSR State Prize for his performance of this part (1949). He received his first USSR State Prize for outstanding achievements in the sphere of opera theatre art in 1943.
This luminary of the Russian opera was also famous as a sophisticated and lyrical chamber singer; his concert repertoire included romances by Russian composers and folk songs.
Throughout his whole career he toured abroad extensively. Alexander Pirogov wrote his memoirs where the shared his own memories as well as stories of his colleagues, friends and relatives.
Alexander Pirogov died on June 26th 1964 on the island Medvezhya Golova (Bear's Head) on the river Oka. He is buried on the Novodevichy Cemetery.