As we speak, we invite you to hearken to recordings by the astonishing Ukrainian bass Alexander Kipnis (1891 – 1978) on a two-CD set from Nimbus, Alexander Kipnis in Opera and Lieder. If you’re a member of Classical Archives, we invite you to hear now.
About Alexander Kipnis
Ukrainian bass Alexander Kipnis (1891 – 1978) was one of many best singers of the final century, and positively one of many best basses of all time.
Maybe as a result of he carried out on the highest ranges throughout a number of musical genres, he’s generally arduous to categorize. He was a Ukrainian/Russian bass within the grand vocal custom whose portrayal of Boris stood on the pinnacle of Russian artwork. However he was additionally among the many best Lieder singers of the final century, on a par with giants like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hans Hotter and Fritz Wunderlich. However for those who begin to pigeonhole him as a Lieder singer, you uncover nonetheless extra of his opera recordings and be taught that he was a genuinely comedian Leporello, a formidable Sarastro, and rather more. And for those who hearken to his portrayal of Hunding in a recording of die Walküre with Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad, it’s a must to settle for the truth that he was a bass who would stroll out onto a stage and positively roar.
Who was this category-defying bass who might spin out ravishing pianissimi in songs by Brahms and Schubert, but unleash torrents of gorgeous sound on the stage? Who precisely was this wonderful singer?
A Exceptional Life Story
A bit greater than 20 years in the past I used to be writing a biography of Alexander Kipnis along with his son Igor, a beautiful gentleman and, in fact, a famend harpsichordist. When Igor handed away in 2002 from kidney illness, I misplaced each a good friend and the co-author of my e-book. Amadeus Press, the writer of the e-book, needed me to complete writing it, however with out Igor, there was no method I might, and I deserted the undertaking.
However within the means of engaged on that biography, I realized plenty of issues about Alexander Kipnis – probably information that few different folks know in the present day. On this put up, I want to share a few of that data with you, interwoven with information in regards to the singer’s life which are higher identified.
Who Alexander Kipnis Was
Alexander Kipnis, who was Jewish, was born into poverty in the ghetto of the city of Zhitomir in Ukraine. His father was a dealer who dealt largely in feathers. Like different Jews who resided within the Pale of Jewish habitation, he was forbidden to personal land and needed to eke out a residing by shopping for and promoting no matter he might for marginal revenue. He hauled round a wood cart and labored outside all year long.
Igor advised me that his father Alexander remembered that his carter father had “coughed his lungs out” and died of tuberculosis. Igor additionally advised me that Alexander, by his life, might keep in mind blood on the ground of the unheated mud hut the place the entire household lived – father, mom, Alexander and his three siblings.
At age 12 after his father died, Alexander turned apprentice to a carpenter to assist his household. He additionally started to sing in synagogues and joined a Yiddish theater group. Igor advised me that his father harbored some lifelong guilt as a result of he didn’t spend his life supporting his mom and siblings. It’s attainable that he needed to get pleasure from a life that was higher than that supplied to him by a squalid ghetto. However primarily based on my work on the biography of Alexander Kipnis, I believe that music had nearly actually seized him, beginning when he was only a boy, and that it drove him ever westward by Poland, Germany, Austria, and at last to America.
In a recorded interview of Alexander I heard whereas I used to be engaged on the e-book, he advised a narrative of an early encounter he had with music. Whereas a bit boy, he left the ghetto one night time and went into city the place, surrounded by native residents, he listened to a band enjoying. When he went to a water fountain to take a drink, somebody got here up behind him, referred to as him a rotten Jew, and hit him behind the top. A few years later, he nonetheless vividly remembered the sight of his personal blood, blended with water, operating down the drain.
By age 19, Alexander had in some way managed to matriculate within the Warsaw Conservatory, maybe as a result of as a Ukrainian, he might freely cross the border into Poland. Apparently, Kipnis remained in Warsaw for just a few years. Whereas he was within the choir of a synagogue there, the choirmaster organized for him to enter the Berlin Conservatory – one other main advance in his musical coaching – the place he studied singing with Ernst Grenzebach, who additionally taught Lauritz Melchior, Max Lorenz and Meta Seinemeyer, an outstanding soprano who, based on Igor Kipnis, turned Alexander’s lover.
(Seinemeyer had a really operatic and tragic life. She died slowly of leukemia however nonetheless managed to sing main roles in German opera homes up till the tip. By the way, there’s a phenomenal recording on Classical Archives of Seinemeyer singing a choice of opera arias. You gained’t wish to miss it.)
There’s a well-known story, borne out by what Igor Kipnis advised me, that after the First World Battle began, Alexander was stranded in Berlin and couldn’t return to both Poland or Ukraine, and he was held in a Berlin jail as an enemy alien. This legend relates that whereas Kipnis was singing to himself in a jail cell, he was overheard by a military captain whose brother was Intendant of the Wiesbaden Opera, the place Alexander was given a soloist contract and sang greater than 300 performances till he joined the Berlin Staatsoper in 1922. Observe that there are similarities between this story and that of the nice German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who was found when he was a prisoner of battle following World Battle II. By the way in a recorded interview I listened to as a part of my analysis, Kipnis stated that it was really not a guard who overheard him singing, however somewhat one other prisoner with whom Kipnis had carried out in Yiddish musicals. So the story, whereas probably embroidered a bit by somebody over time, has some reality at its core.
Alexander’s life continued to take uncommon turns. In 1923, he visited america with a touring firm referred to as The Wagnerian Opera Firm. Like plenty of touring corporations of the day, this one apparently ran out of funds whereas on tour and its artists have been compelled to search out funding to return dwelling. However in Chicago, Alexander met Mildred Levy, the daughter of the revered pianist and pedagogue Henriot Levy. Alexander and Mildred married in 1925.
From 1923 till 1932, he was on the roster of the Chicago Civic Opera. But he continued to return to Europe to carry out. Kipnis remained with the Berlin Opera till 1935, when he was capable of declare sickness so he might break his contract and depart Nazi Germany. He then appeared for a number of seasons as a visitor with the Vienna State Opera. As a result of he held twin citizenship with Germany and america, he was capable of return and carry out in Germany, most notably at Bayreuth, the place regardless of his Jewish heritage he was reluctantly admired by Goebbels and allowed by high-ranking Nazis to carry out. Among the many supplies that Igor Kipnis had on file about his father, one was a doc, signed by Josef Goebbels, which gave Alexander Kipnis permission to carry out at Bayreuth. I held this doc in my palms, and it was chilling to see.
Kipnis was signed by the Metropolitan in 1940, by which era he had appeared in many of the world’s main opera homes, together with the Royal Opera Home, Covent Backyard, (in 1927 and 1929–1935), the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1926–1936) and naturally at Berlin and Bayreuth.
At first of his Met years in 1940, Kipnis was handled in unusual, probably discriminatory methods by the Met administration. Curiously Ezio Pinza, not Kipnis, was chosen to sing Boris that yr on the Met. Why did the Met select an Italian, not an incredible Russian/Ukrainian bass like Kipnis, for that project? It could be arduous in charge Kipnis’s marginalization on Bruno Walter, who was the Met’s Music Director, on the grounds that Walter was an anti-Semite. Walter was Jewish too, in any case. Any frictions apparently didn’t final lengthy as a result of by 1941, Walter was conducting performances of Fidelio on the Met with a solid that included Kipnis, Herbert Janssen and Kirsten Flagstad.
Alexander Kipnis continued to look on the Met till 1946 when, on the age of solely 56, he decided to retire as a result of he didn’t really feel that he was nonetheless able to performing on the highest degree. He then went on to show singing at Juilliard and died in Westport, Connecticut in 1978, at age 87.
Hearken to Alexander Kipnis on Classical Archives
As I discussed earlier on this article, the Nimbus two-CD recording, Alexander Kipnis in Opera and Lieder Is accessible on Classical Archives.
In it, you’ll uncover Kipnis’s artistry and phenomenal voice in performances of opera arias by Mozart, Verdi and Rossini in addition to Lieder by Brahms, Schubert and extra. Have you ever ever heard a extra commanding efficiency of Wotan’s farewell from die Walküre, a extra chilling interpretation of Schubert’s Erlkönig or a extra deeply shifting efficiency of Brahms’s Auf dem Kirchhofe? We’d be shocked for those who had. These are among the many most fulfilling performances ever dedicated to report.