Because the name is transliterated from the Russian there are alternative spellings: nowadays the tendency is to use Feodor (or Fyodor) Chaliapin: however I have stuck with the spelling used on the HMV 78s. Chaliapine was the foremost Russian bass of his era. He was born near Kazan in 1873, and was at first self-taught. After singing with provincial companies he studied at Tbilisi, subsequently singing in St. Petersburg in 1894 and joining the Russian Imperial Troupe in 1895. Appearances with them and in Paris, New York and London established his fame. After the First World War he was not allowed by the Soviet Government to leave Russia until 1921, after which he settled in England and continued to make appearances in the world's leading opera houses until his death in Paris in 1938.

Much more than any other singer of the time he had considerable abilities as an actor (though not a subtle one: Ravel complained of his 'sinister laughs and cavernous shudders' in 1913): the characterizations of all his roles were sharply differentiated and almost burst out of his recordings (and the photographs) - Pimen, Boris, Vaarlam (Boris Godounov), Galitsky, Konchak (Prince Igor), Don Quixote (Massenet), and both Boito's and Gounod's Mefistopheles: indeed in Faust he brought a whole extra sardonic layer to Gounod's rather shallow pantomime Devil.

His voice was powerful and flexible - indeed he could sing baritone roles - and his presence on stage overpowering. He was also a master of makeup, as the page of photographs I have assembled shows clearly.

SONG OF PRINCE GALITSKY (Prince Igor) (Borodin)
HMV DA891, recorded 1927

He sang all three major roles in Prince Igor (Igor, Konchak, Galitsky): this recording demonstrates the strength of his characterization as the dissolute Prince, left in charge in Igor's absence and wasting no time in indulging in licentious behaviour.

THE SONG OF THE FLEA (Moussorgsky)
HMV DB932, recorded 1926

I have cheated slightly here, as this isn't an operatic aria: but Chaliapine's recording of Moussorgsky's satirical song is one of his best performances. As it is more enjoyable if you understand the words I have provided a translation.

Both recordings have been digitally noise reduced (see note on the introduction page).

Apart from his operatic career, Chaliapine appeared in two films: a silent made in 1915, Pskovityanka, and G.W.Pabst's 1933 Don Quichotte in which Chaliapine played the Don in both the French and English versions. (In the English version Sancho Panza was played by the veteran music-hall comic George Robey: the songs in both versions were by Ibert).

If you would like to download these recordings you can do so from this page.

There are more recordings of Chaliapine on my page here.

Arbiter Records have embarked on a project to issue all of Chaliapine's records on CD.

Preiser (who are distributed by Harmonia Mundi) have issued a CD (89965) of excerpts from live performances of Mefistofele, Faust, Boris Godounov, and Mozart and Salieri at Covent Garden and the Royal Albert Hall in 1928 & 1927: though inevitably less polished than the studio recordings these provide a fascinating record of his power on stage.

Other CDs are Conifer MCHD226 and EMI CDH7 61009-2.

With the exception of the Preiser I have not heard these transfers and list them here simply for information. I can't guarantee they are still available.