Born: April 4, 1946
Russian-born bass Sergei Leiferkus has proven himself authoritative in many areas of the repertory. He was among the first of the Soviet artists of the 1980s to have established himself as an important singer in the West, as well as in his own country. In addition to opera, he has excelled in recital and concert work. His sturdy, almost brazen timbre and incisive phrasing make a bold effect and his instrument's dark coloring makes it possible for him to effectively assume such bass parts as that of the soloist in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar). After studies in Leningrad, Leiferkus was engaged by the Malïy Opera Theatre in 1972, remaining with that company as a principal singer until 1978. His debut at Leningrad's Kirov took place as Prince Andrei in 1977. As an increasingly important figure among that theater's growing roster of world-class singers, Leiferkus assumed such roles as Don Giovanni and Rossini's Figaro. His Western debut came not in an opera house, but rather on the concert stage when he appeared in 1980 with the Berlin Philharmonic under Kurt Masur. In 1982, he appeared at the small but well-known Wexford Festival singing the Marquis in Massenet's rather obscure Grisélidis. He was invited back for the title role in Marschner's Hans Heiling, the Fiddler in Humperdinck's Königskinder and Boniface in another Massenet rarity, Le jongleur de Notre-Dame. Leiferkus established other ties in the British Isles, performing Yevgeny Onegin and Don Giovanni for the Scottish Opera, essaying Zurga and Escamillo for the English National Opera and Zurga and Scarpia for Opera North. His debut at the Royal Opera took place as the Count di Luna in a 1989 production of Il trovatore. Subsequent roles there included Prince Igor, Iago, Onegin, Telramund, Scarpia, and Ruprecht in Prokofiev's Fiery Angel. With the Kirov company, Leiferkus toured England in 1987, performing both Onegin and Tomsky in Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame. The Glyndebourne Festival invited Leiferkus to repeat Tomsky in 1992; the same year, the baritone made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Onegin. Among his other nearly 50 roles are Mazeppa, Telramund, Pizarro (all three recorded), the elder Germont and Anckarstroem in Un ballo in maschera (a role that won him outstanding reviews at San Francisco in 2000). He has sung in such other venues as the Wiener Staatsoper, La Scala, the Teatro Colón, the Bastille Opera in Paris, and the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam. Besides Glyndebourne, Leiferkus has sung opera performances at the Salzburg Easter Festival, at Edinburgh, and at Bregenz. Leiferkus has made a series of excellent song recordings for both Conifer and Chandos. The first disc of his complete cycle of Mussorgsky songs was nominated for a Grammy, while Volume Two won a 1997 Cannes classical award, and three volumes from the set were honored with a Diapason d'Or that same year. The singer's recital appearances have been acclaimed in both America and England. Leiferkus has appeared several times at Lincoln Center and at the Frick Collection and has sung memorable programs at Covent Garden and Wigmore Hall. In addition to other recitals at Tanglewood, the Wexford Festival, the Kozerthaus in Vienna, and the Cologne Philharmonic, Leiferkus has conducted master classes at the Britten-Pears School at Aldeburgh, England.