Alexander Pirogov


Born: July 4, 1899; Novosyolki, Ryazan, Russia   Died: June 26, 1964; Novosyolki, Ryazan, Russia  
In the four decades after the departure of Feodor Chaliapin in 1919, two Russian basses dominated the stage at Moscow's mighty Bolshoi. Mark Reizen, tall and elegant, whose magnificent instrument had a Slavic edge somewhat softer than most, had but one rival. Alexander Pirogov, commanding and powerful, owned a voice blacker in timbre, less smooth, but arresting in its impact and guided by theatrical instincts of overwhelming authority. Although Read more stories abound of their dislike for each other, their presence assured the theater's primacy in having bass singers perfectly suited to the many great bass roles that give Russian opera its special tang.

Pirogov came from a family that boasted five sons. Four of them became singers, including Alexander's famous older brother, Grigori, also a bass. While the boys' father and grandfather both had fine voices, neither had pursued a professional career. At 15, Alexander's youthful voice simply disappeared one day. Although he was teased about the loss by his friends, his teacher insisted that someday Alexander would be singing at the Bolshoi. After the voice returned, Pirogov entered Moscow University and took singing classes at the Philharmonic School in Moscow. Following a period spent with a choral ensemble, he was engaged by the Zimin Free Opera in Moscow where, in two years time (1922 - 1924), he learned his craft and gained familiarity with several leading roles. In 1924, Pirogov was invited to join the Bolshoi. Soon he was heard as Gremin, Ivan Susanin, the Old Miller, Russlan, and Ivan the Terrible from the Russian repertory, in addition to such leading characters in Western opera as Don Basilio and Méphistophélès. The last named he reportedly learned in just two weeks. In 1929, Pirogov was honored by being assigned the title role in Boris Godunov; thereafter he was known as an unsurpassed interpreter of this mightiest of all Russian protagonists.

Establishing a reputation for hard work and meticulous attention to detail, Pirogov continued to sharpen and refine his interpretations. He arrived at the theater early, applying his makeup and stepping into costume long before he was summoned to the stage. Although many stories suggest an imperious presence in his personal affairs, others paint another portrait, revealing a friendly and outgoing approach toward his colleagues. Although he retired from the Bolshoi in 1954, Pirogov was the choice for Boris when the opera was filmed in 1955. He had already been awarded the Stalin Prize for his performance of the role and accompanied the film to Venice for the international film festival held there. Although the film was not a prizewinner, the Italian film academy struck a special medal to honor the singer.

After 1954, Pirogov spent most of his time in his native city, traveling to Moscow only for occasional appearances on-stage and in concert. When the Bolshoi was invited to La Scala in 1964, Pirogov was selected to sing Boris. However, after fishing in his beloved Oka River on a particularly hot day in late June, he returned home and retired for a nap. Awakening with chest pains in the middle of the night, he sent his son for a doctor, but by the time the physician arrived, the bass was already dead. Thus, Pirogov was denied the possibility of one final triumph. Read less
Browse 1-6 of 6 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov / Nebolsin, Nelepp, Piragov, Kozlovsky
    Label: Kultur Video   Catalog: 4380 Release Date: 10/27/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Modest Mussorgsky
    Performer:  Alexander Pirogov,  Ivan Kozlovsky,  Georgi Nelepp,  Maxim Mikhailov
    Conductor:  Vasily Nebolsin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bolshoi Theatre Chorus,  Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
    On sale! $29.99
    DVD: $18.49
    In Stock
    On sale!   $29.99   DVD:  $18.49 Add DVD to Cart

  • 2.
    Pawel Lisitzian Vol 2 - Recordings 1948-1951
    Label: Hafg   Catalog: 10148 Release Date: 10/22/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ruggero Leoncavallo,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Charles Gounod
    Performer:  Pavel Lisitsian,  Jakowenko,,  Solkolova,,  Yelisaveta Shumskaya  ... 
    Conductor:  Samuel Samosud,  Onissim Bron,  Alexander Melik-Pashayev,  Orlow,  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra,  USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
    In Stock
    ArkivCD:  $16.99 Add to Cart

  • 3.
    Alexander Pirogow - Recordings 1936-1950
    Label: Hafg   Catalog: 10188 Release Date: 07/23/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Modest Mussorgsky,  Marian Viktorovich Koval,  Alexander Dargomizhsky,  Alexander Borodin  ... 
    Performer:  Alexander Pirogov,  V. Kilchevsky,  Elena Smolenskaya
    Conductor:  Nikolai Golovanov,  Vassily Nebolssin,  Alexander Melik-Pashayev,  Samuel Samosud
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
    In Stock
    ArkivCD:  $16.99 Add to Cart

  • 4.
    Russian Opera at the Bolshoi - The Vintage Years / Chaliapin, Kozlovsky, Et Al
    Label: Kultur Video   Catalog: 2019 Release Date: 09/28/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Modest Mussorgsky
    Performer:  Galina Vishnevskaya,  Sergei Lemechev,  Ivan Kozlovsky,  Alexander Pirogov  ... 
    On sale! $19.99
    DVD: $14.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $19.99   DVD:  $14.99 Add DVD to Cart

  • 5.
    Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov / Piragov, Kozlovsky, Nebolshin, Et Al
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4253 Release Date: 03/30/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Modest Mussorgsky
    Performer:  Alexander Pirogov,  Ivan Kozlovsky
    Conductor:  Vassily Nebolssin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bolshoi Theatre Chorus,  Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
    DVD: $28.99
    In Stock
    DVD:  $28.99 Add DVD to Cart

  • 6.
    Great Singers Of Russia Volume 1 - Chaliapin To Reizen
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4257 Release Date: 12/02/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Various
    Performer:  Georgi Nelepp,  Maxim Mikhailov,  Pavel Lisitsian,  Paul Robeson  ... 
    DVD: $34.99
    Back Order
    DVD:  $34.99 Add DVD to Cart