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Boris Christoff - Aria of Attila

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Uploaded on Oct 8, 2008

Boris Christoff (Bulgarian: Борис Христов) (May 18, 1914, Plovdiv, Bulgaria June 28, 1993, Rome, Italy) was a Bulgarian opera singer, one of the greatest basses of the 20th century.

Christoff demonstrated early his singing talent and sang as a boy at the choir of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia. In the late 1930s he graduated in law and started on a career as a magistrate. He, however, continued singing in his spare time in the Gusla Chorus in Sofia, achieving an enormous success as the chorus soloist in 1940. Thanks to a government grant, Christoff left in May 1942 for Italy where he was tutored for two years in the core Italian bass repertoire by the great baritone of an earlier generation, Riccardo Stracciari.

Christoff's vocal instrument was of excellent quality with a memorably distinctive tone. While not of huge proportions, his voice had no trouble making an impact in big auditoria such as that of the Met. Owing to his matchless stage presence and strong dramatic temperament, he emerged as a worthy heir to the grand tradition of Slavonic basses as exemplified by Fyodor Stravinsky, Lev Sibiriakov, Vladimir Kastorsky, Feodor Chaliapin, Alexander Kipnis and Mark Reizen, among others. He sang mostly in Verdi and the Russian repertoire, although he also proved to be a refined performer of vocal chamber music. Among his most famous roles were those of Tsar Boris (Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov), Philip II (Verdi - Don Carlo), Mephistopheles (Gounod - Faust and Boito - Mefistofele), Ivan Susanin (Glinka - A Life for the Tsar), Zaccaria (Verdi - Nabucco), Tsar Ivan (Rimsky-Korsakov - Ivan the Terrible), Dosifei (Mussorgsky - Khovanshchina), Gomez da Silva (Verdi - Ernani), Fiesco (Verdi - Simon Boccanegra), Attila (Verdi - Attila), Padre Guardiano (Verdi - La forza del destino), Galitzky and Kontchak (Borodin - Prince Igor) and others.

Boris Christoff set modern-day standards in most roles that he sang in the opera house. He also had an enormous discography - studio recordings of eight operas (Don Carlo and Boris Godunov twice each) and numerous live recordings (radio or stage performances). He was much admired as song singer and he recorded more than 200 Russian songs by Mussorgsky (he was the first to record all his 63 songs), Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, Borodin, Cui, Balakirev as well as traditional songs. Most of these songs are with piano accompaniment and are among the best of all his recordings.

While he was a grand performer on stage, Christoff had difficult off-stage relations with fellow singers and producers, which sometimes grew into public scandals. In 1955 he fell out with Maria Callas during the performances of Medea at the Rome Opera and in 1961 his contract with La Scala was terminated after an open conflict with fellow Bulgarian Nicolai Ghiaurov whom Christoff blamed for collaborating with the Bulgarian communist regime.

He was the brother-in-law of the Italian baritone Tito Gobbi.

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    • "Uldino! Non hai veduto?...Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima (Atilla, Act 1) (1988 Remastered Version)" by Boris Christoff/Philharmonia Orchestra/Jerzy Semkow Listen ad-free with YouTube Red

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