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Mark Osipovich Reizen, also Reisen or Reyzen (Russian: Марк Осипович Рейзен, born in Zaitsevo village, Ekaterinoslav province, Russian Empire (now Ukraine) 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 trained in music, playing mandolin, guitar, balalaika and accordion. He served as a soldier in the First World War. He studied engineering at the Kharkiv Politechnic, and also voice at the Kharkiv conservatory with the Italian professor Federico Bugamelli in 1919-1920. He debuted 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 Europe performing in 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 age 97 of a stroke. He is 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. A number of recordings are available on CD and verify his greatness. Film clips of him performing also exist.
- "Reizen is stupendous. His lush, voluminous basso rolls through the music unconstrainedly. It sits easily at the bottom, peels forth brilliant Fs and F-sharps at the top (and one hair-raising high G), and in-between displays flowing line and a mezza-voce that rivals prime Pinza or Chaliapin. Ruslan's heroic fire and tenderness are there - it's a complete piece of work". (Conrad L. Osborne, in the Metropolitan Opera Guide to Recorded Opera)
- “In 1930, Reizen went on a tour of the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre, sang Mephistopheles (Faust) and was immediately noticed by Stalin, who was a music and opera lover. He described a somewhat comical scene as he was invited to the official government box during the intermission, where, dressed as the Devil, he was introduced to Stalin. The dialogue went something like this:
- –You sing very well.
- –Thank you.
- –Why don't you come here more often?
- –You see, I sing in Leningrad and only visit here.
- –Why not move here and visit there?
- –You see, I have a contract there, and an apartment too…
- –Perhaps we can do something and find you an apartment here.
- The following day and in typical Soviet style, he was surprised by the unannounced visit of an official car with a soldier, who was under orders to take him hunting apartments.
- This is how Mark Reizen was engaged at the Bolshoi.” (Anecdote, Opera Gems)
(' 'Mark Reizen - Autobiography - [Autobiograficheskie Zapisky,Stati i Vospominanya) 2nd edition 1986 pp135)
Recordings and discography
- Lebendige Vergangenheit - Mark Reizen CD 0717281890595 Label: Preiser 1997, Time: 76 minutes (with biographical liner notes).
- Detailed discography: , .
- Piotr Kaminski: article in Guide de L'Opera, Fayard, France, 1992, p. 690
- Steane, J B: "Reyzen, Mark" in the New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7