The History of Sergei Lemeshev

Sergei Lemeshev

Born: 27 June 1902
Died: 26 June 1977
Russian Tenor

Two years younger than Kozlovsky, Sergei Lemeshev was born on the 10th of July 1902.

His long and distinguished career as an opera singer began in 1925, when he joined the Stanislavsky’s studio, and it was there that he made his debut as Lenski, in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. He then performed in opera houses of Sverdlovsk and Tbilisi. Turning to Moscow in 1931.
He became a leading soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre where he sang for over four decades.

At the Bolshoi, his career as a leading tenor, coincided with that of Ivan Kozlovsky, as we already know.
This is given rise to comparisons between the two tenors.

Eric Reece has pointed out, that these comparisons are singularly unfruitful. Noting that in vocal quality, technique, and musical style they were quite remarkably dissimilar. With little in common, beyond certain Russian mannerisms and vocal characteristics of a national, rather than a personal nature. It is true that both tenors shared an almost identical repertoire, beyond that resemblance is illusory.

Here is Lemeshev singing the Bayan’s song from a Glinka opera Ruslan and Rudmilla.

Bayan’s Song / Rus – Rudmilla / 1948-54 – Sergei Lemeshev

Lemeshev was a fine actor and was something of a film hero, in Soviet Russia.
Indeed, two of his films, Russian Salad and the Musical Story was seen in London after the war.
On these, Eric Reece commented, that his charm and accomplishment, both in singing and acting were magnific.
And that here, obviously was a lyric tenor of world class.

Looking over his career, I Belza, Dr of History and Art in Moscow, considered that his finest role was Lenski in Eugene Onegin.
That he was also outstanding in Prince Igor, Dombrovskis, Vetra, Romeo, Faust, The Barber of Seville, Sadco, Sorachinski Faia, the Snow Maiden and Rigoletto.

Here he is, in the Romance of the young Gypsy, from Rubinstein’s opera, Aleko.

Romance Of The Gipsy / Aleko / 1948-54 – Sergei Lemeshev

Galina Vishnevskaya, the Bolshoi’s great prima-donna, thought Lemeshev the finest tenor she ever worked with.

In her autobiography, Galina, she remarked:

“In Soviet Russia there has not been and will not be for years to come, an artist to equal the enchantment of his voice, his irresistible charm, and his mastery.
Everything about him was artistic, his movements, his inspired facial expressions, his disarming smile.
Every emotion he portrayed, from love to hate, was genuine and artistic.
Always elegant, with beautiful manners, he had a keen sense of the costumes of the era.

On the stage and until the end of his career, he was a youth, beloved and vulnerable.
Even at 70, he still drove his admirers into ecstasy, every time he sang Lenski at the Bolshoi.

In women, he aroused, not passion but tenderness and pity. The most primordial and injuring of feminine feelings. Sergei Lemeshev, singer of love, singer of sadness.

Vladimir’s Romance / Dubrovsky / 1948-54 – Sergei Lemeshev

History of the Tenor - Sydney Rhys Barker

The History as it was Recorded

Sydney Rhys Barker