Mark Reizen - biography
Mark Osipovich Reizen, also Reisen or Reyzen (Russian: Марк Осипович Рейзен, born in Zaitsevo village, Ekaterinoslav province, Russian Empire 3 July [O.S. 21 June] 1895 — died November 25, 1992 Moscow, Russia) was a leading Soviet opera singer with a beautiful and expansive bass voice.
Life and career
Reizen was born into a Jewish family of mine workers in 1895. He had four brothers and a sister, and all were musically trained, playing mandolin, guitar, balalaika and accordion. He served as a soldier in the First World War. Then he studied as an engineer, but also as a singer at the Kharkiv conservatory with the Italian professor Federico Bugamelli in 1919-1920. He made his debut at the Kharkiv Opera in 1921 as Pimen in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, and in 1925 moved to the Mariinsky Theatre in Leningrad. Reizen toured Paris, Berlin, Monte Carlo and London in 1929-1930. A tall man commanding a strong stage presence, he joined the Bolshoi Theatre in 1930, remaining there as a principal bass until his retirement in 1954. Among his roles were: Ivan Susanin and Ruslan from the Glinka's operas, Don Basilio (The Barber of Seville by Rossini), Mephistopheles (Faust by Gounod), Prince Gremin (Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky), Salieri (Mozart and Salieri), the Viking merchant (Sadko) in operas by Rimsky-Korsakov, the old Gypsy (Aleko by Rachmaninov), Wotan in Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungs, Konchak (Prince Igor by Borodin), Philip II and Procida in Verdi's operas, and so on. He became a particularly memorable interpreter of Boris and Dosifei in the operas by Mussorgsky.
Reizen was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1941, 1949 and 1951. In 1967 he began teaching, and became a professor at the Moscow Gnessin Institute. He gave an important recital for his 80th anniversary, and for his 90th sang Prince Gremin (in Eugene Onegin) at the Bolshoi in Moscow in July 1985. On both occasions his voice proved to be in a remarkable state of preservation.
Reizen died at the age 97 of a sudden stroke. His place in the performance history of opera is secure. He is generally considered to have been the most illustrious Russian bass since the days of Lev Sibiriakov (1869-1942) and Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938), and the possessor of one of the very finest voices of its type heard anywhere in the world during the past 100 years. Luckily, he made a number of recordings which are available on CD and verify his greatness. Film clips of him performing also exist.