F.SHALAPIN AND KAZAN
"…in Russian Art Shalapin is an epoch like Pushkin"
The Shalapin's art is one of the most brilliant pages of Russian musical theatre at the end 19th - beginning 20th centuries. The theatrical history knows the names of many outstanding singers. But nobody from them could compete with Shalapin in world fame, that came to him. The national art of Shalapin, which impressed his contemporaries and compatriots, became revelation for western audience too. His art had stepped over the border of Russia and affected the development of world opera art.
The origins of his phenomenal talent and fame came from Kazan, where on February 1 (old calendar style) 1873 in a wing of the house, that belonged to merchant Lisitzin, in Rubnoryadskaya street (nowadays Pushkin street, 10) in family of clerk of Zemskaya Uprava (Land Council) was born Fedor Shalapin. On the next day, Candlemas Day, Fedor was baptized in Bogoyavlenkaya church in former Large Prolomnaya street (nowadays Bauman street). His parents in God became the neighbours of the Shalapins: the shoemaker Nikolay Tonkov and 12-year-old girl Ludmilochka Kharitonova.
At Rubnoryadskaya street the Shalapins had lived not for a long time. The house owners decided to make the house reconstruction, so the Shalapins had to search for new home. They moved to Ometievo village, there they leased for 1,5 roubles a small house of Tikhon Grigoriev, a miller. Fedor Shalapin began his curriculum vitae from the story about this house. He recollected dark evenings, gentle voice of his mother singing folk songs.
Being 8-year-old boy he had seen a buffoon Yashka. Later Shalapin wrote, 'Being greatly impressed by this street artist, I had stood near that booth until my legs got cold and eyes became tired of diversity of colours of buffoons' clothes'. The ability to make audience fun, seemed to young Fedor the top of art skill.
Shalapin studied at the sixth town initial school, that was one of best in city in Georgian street (nowadays Sverdlova street, 58). In that time the family lived in Cloth district, near to Dukhososhestvennaya Church (nowadays Kazan Puppet-show in Lukovskogo street, 21). There young Fedor for 1,5 roubles per one month sang in spiritual chorus and also on weddings, funeral and thanksgiving services, where spiritual singing was required.
For the first time in his life Fedor came to the theatre on the Theatrical square (this theatre burned down at the beginning of 20th century), when he was eleven. At that time the local town theatre was one of best in Kazan province. On its stage the famous provincial actors acted, frequently gave performances on tour the stars from the Petersburg and Moscow Imperial theatres. The first youthful impressions from meeting with art had remained in Shalapin's memory for ever he wrote, 'The smell of burning gas lighting became to me the most pleasant smell for all life … To the bottom of my heart I was impressed by what I had seen and I gazed at those miracles without blinking. I hardly could think about anything. I understood, the theatre was incomparably more interesting than the booth of Yashka Mamonov…I became crazy about the theatre, it almost sent me mad'.
By the will of destiny Fedor Shalapin had started his stage career in Kazan, the town of his birth-place. On a stage of summer theatre in the Panaev's garden, which was one of the favourite places of rest of the townees, in July, 1887 Fedor Shalapin made his unsuccessful debut as policemen Rozhe in the play "The tramps". Later in his the curriculum vitae F.Shalapin wrote, 'I remembered, they had opened a door in side scenes and pushed me out on the stage. I perfectly understood, that I had to speak, to act. But I felt I was not capable at all to do this. My feet had grown into the stage floor, my hands had stuck to my body, my tongue had swelled and become mute. I could not tell a word, could not move any finger. (…) They had put down the curtain and as before I had been standing motionless, like a stone, until the director, who was white with anger began to beat me, while he tried to take off the policeman's costume from my body'. But his flop has not destroyed the Shalapin's passion for the theatre. Some time later, in April, 1889 he appeared on the stage of theatre in operetta by Vasilyi Serebryakov . And in winter seasons of 1889-1890 he became the regular actor in drama company of Vasilyi Serebryakov. N.Bogolubov, who was at that time the assistant to director, wrote, 'whether Fedor played a role of speechless executioner in soulful drama, or severe oprichnick (one of cruel bodyguards, who served to Ivan the Terrible) in retinue of Ivan the Terrible or old lackey, wearing sidewhiskers, who handed the last letter of self-murderer to lady, which had betrayed him, in all his roles, when he acted like "speechless supernumerary " the great dramatic art sounded'.
The citizens of Kazan were always proud of fact that their city is native land of great Shalapin. He remembered his native town for all his life, in every place of a planet where he was. Therefore in Kazan - "the most beautiful city in the world", as Shalapin used to say about it, in the 40ies of 20th century was organized one of the centres, that studied the life of Shalapin. The work of this centre was led by Kazan museum of À.Gorky and Marya Elizarova, Director (Curator) of Kazan museum of À.Gorky. At that troubles time it was not only very difficult, but perilous job, Soviet government did not stimulate the interest to emigrant singer, therefore the museum employees could not hope that the results of their work would be exhibited.
Nevertheless in 1968 in Literary - memorial museum of À.Gorky the section devoted to friendship of Alexey Gorky and Fedor Shalapin was open. The basis of Shalapin's collection was put by the photos, that had been taken during the visit of Irena Shalapina, singer's daughter, to Gorky's Scientific Conference, which took place in Kazan in 1946. Irena Shalapina handed to the museum a lot of things, that belonged to her father, including the donative tapes from the admirers of his talent, a desk set and candlestick from his table, which stood the bedroom of his private residence in Novinski parkway. From there there are also three metal lamp-brackets. Simultaneously the vase with the handle from green mayolick (from Abramzevskaya workshop), presented to the singer by the connoisseur and judge of art Savva Mamontov was also handed to museum. With the help Jola Tornagi, first wife of Shalapin, and Irena Shalapina it was possible to find and to get an unique exhibit - grand piano of Fedor Slapin. The grand piano stood in the Moscow apartment of Shalapin for more than 30 years. The employees of a museum make the research work on the themes of exhibition. Among the most interesting exhibits there are the autographes of F.Shalapin to his compatriots: E.Kovelkova, A.Rozhdestvin, N.Bashmakov.
The Shalapin's collection increases every year. In 1995 in Kazan the grand daughter of Fedor Shalapin, Irina Morphey came. She presented to the museum lapti and valenki, that her grandfather wore, when he acted Ivan Syssanin in opera "Life for the Tzar" by M.Glinka. In 1997 the museum of Gorky received the archive of famous Kazan scientist S.Goltzman, the author of the book "Shalapin in Kazan ". This archive holds more than 730 documents. Last year according to the will made by Irina Shalapina from the State central museum of musical culture named after M.Glinka four subjects were handed to Kazan museum of Gorky: a silver ladle - bratnina decorated with horse's head ( this ladle was a gift to Shalapin from the chorister of the Petersburg Imperial Theatre in 1904), theatrical costume of Shalapin for the role of Khan Konchak, uncompleted portrait "Young Shalapin" by V.Rossinski and picture " Izbi (log huts). North " by N.Clodt from a personal collection of F.Shalapin with a dedicatory inscription "To Fedor Shalapin, 1904 - N.Clodt".
Since 1973 the conference "Shalapin's readings", has become traditional in Kazan. The scientists from Moscow, St.-Petersburg, Ufa and other cities of Russia, which study Shalapin's life and art, come to Kazan with their lectures. The large interest to Shalapin's life and art is shown also by the representatives from Japan, Finland, China. In 1999 Robert Godzinski, the son of George Godzinski, Shalapin's accompanist in Japan and China, spoke to the audience at "Shalapin's readings". His speech was accompanied by an exhibition of materials from personal family archive, the part of materials was handed to the museum.
Repeatedly the relatives of the great singer visited the Kazan museum of À.Gorky. Besides Irina Shalapina, to our museum came: Irina Morphey, Shalapin's granddaughter and Dassia Robertson-Shalapina, his great-granddaughter.
Since 1986 in Kazan there is a Club of opera amateurs. Among the founders of this club there were V.Raku, the former director of opera theatre, and R.Taktash, former manager of literary section of the museum (nowadays curator of the Museum of Opera House).
The employees of Kazan literary-memorial museum of À.M. Gorky
A.Tutaeva, Director to the museum, and S.Golzman initiated to found the Society of Shalapin's art amateurs in 1989. The main concept of the Club of opera amateurs and Society of Shalapin's art amateurs is art promulgation.
Due to their enthusiasm to 125 anniversary from the birthday of Fedor Shalapin in 1998, in Kazan the stone for future monument to the great singer was laid next to Bogoyavlenkaya church, where was baptized Shalapin. In one year (in 2000) the first in the world monument to Fedor Shalapin (author À.Balashov) was opened. We are pleased to notice, that not only museum employees and workers of culture do their best efforts to keep the memory of our great compatriot, but other citizen of our city also also has become more active. This year was marked by unique event, on Shalapin's birthday in former basement of the E.Smolentzev and N.Shmelev's Trade house under the monument to F.Shalapin the presentation of cafe "On a Visit to Shalapin" was held. This is the private project of the architect - designer Å. Sapozhnikov, who has tried to create the atmosphere of that time. The halls of cafe are decorated with old theatrical posters, photos of Shalapin in theatrical costumes, the designer used exhibits from the museum of A.Gorky as well. The special colouring of past is created by old-fashioned things and photo of Kazan at the beginning of 20th century and menu from dishes, which loved Fedor Shalapin. The cafe can receive 50 visitors at once, we hope, it will become a favourite place of meetings of art amateurs in our city.
The important role in cultural life of our city is played by the International opera festival, dedicated to the art of Fedor Shalapin. The festival is organized by the Ministry of Culture of Republic Tatarstan and Tatar Academic Opera and Ballet House named after M.Jalil.
The festival has positively influenced the life of our opera-house, its company is well-recognized abroad and makes tours to different foreign theatres.
'Likewise our compatriot Fedor Shalapin, who has brought the sounds of Russian music, which was dear to his heart, to all the world, Kazan with its festivals and "Shalapin's readings", the museum of A.Gorky, the Club of opera amateurs and Society Shalapin's art amateurs) keeps in generations a name of person, " whose art by itself is a great combination of talents of singer, musician and actor" … ' (Irakli Andronnikov).