O Isis und Osiris

Arie des Sarastro mit Chor (Nr. 10).
Anrufung der Götter und Fürbitte für Tamino und Papageno vor dem Beginn ihres Prüfungsweges,
im zweiten Akt von Mozarts Die Zauberflöte.

Alexander Kipnis


Alexander Kipnis (Ukrainian: Олександр Кіпнiс) born (February 13, (February 1 Julian calendar) 1891 in Zhytomyr, the capital of the government of Volhynia, in the Russian Empire, (now Ukraine) – died May 14, 1978 in Westport, Connecticut), was an operatic bass of great artistry and vocal endowment. He became an American citizen in 1931, having married an American and long appeared at the Chicago Opera before making his début at the Metropolitan Opera in 1940.

His impoverished family of seven lived in a Jewish ghetto. After his father died, when he was 12, he helped support the family as a carpenter's apprentice and by singing soprano in local synagogues and in Bessarabia (now Moldova) until his voice changed. As a teenager he took part in a Yiddish theatrical group, until he left for employment at a synagogue in Sedlice, Poland. About this time he entered the Warsaw Conservatory at 19. The conservatory did not require a high-school diploma. His education included the study of the trombone, double bassand conducting all the while he continued to sing in synagogues. On the recommendation of the Choirmaster he traveled to Berlin and studied voice with Ernst Grenzebach who was also the teacher of Lauritz Melchior, Meta Seinemeyer, and Max Lorenz, at the same time he sang second bass in Monti's Operetta Theater.

When the First World War started he was interned as an alien in a German holding camp. While singing to himself he was overheard by a Captain whose brother was general manager of the Wiesbaden Opera. Upon his recommendation he was released and hired by the Hamburg Opera where in two years he was to gain enough experience to be hired by Wiesbaden. It was in Hamburg he made his 1915 debut singing three Johann Strauss songs as a "guest" in the party scene of Die Fledermaus. Two years later in 1917 he moved to the Wiesbaden Opera where sang in over 300 performances until 1922, when he joined the Staatsoper in Berlin. The next year he toured the United States with the Wagner Opera Co. For 9 seasons between 1923 and 1932 he was on the roster of the Civic Opera of Chicago. In 1927, at the Bayreuth Festival, he sang Gurnemanz in Parsifal under Karl Muck and recorded the Good Friday music under Siegfried Wagner. (A purported live performance recording in 1933 under Richard Strauss has been generally discounted.). He was under contract with the Berlin Opera until 1935, when he was able to break his contract and get out of Germany. He appeared for three seasons as a guest performer with the Vienna State Opera, 1936-1938. Just after the Anschluss he left Europe and settled permanently in the United States.

By the time he was finally signed by the Metropolitan in 1940 he had sung in virtually every major opera house in the world and was considered one of the world's greatest basses. He sang with almost all of the great conductors, Ansermet, Barbirolli, Beecham, Leo Blech, Busch, Coates, Elmendorff, Furtwängler, Heger, Karajan, Krips, Kleiber, Klemperer, Knappertsbusch, Koussevitsky, Leinsdorf, Mengelberg, Mitropoulos, Monteux, Muck, Nikisch, Ormandy, Pfitzner, Reiner, Rodzinski, Rosbaud, Scherchen, Richard Strauss, Szell, Toscanini, Walter and Weingartner. (And there may be some famous Italians in there as well, from his many highly successful appearances at the Teatro Colón, in Buenos Aires.)

Between 1915 and 1951 he sang at least 108 roles, often in more than one language and his performances in opera and oratorio numbered more than 1600. He retired from the Metropolitan in 1946 and his last concert appearance was in 1951.

His many recordings of Lieder by Brahms, Wolf and Schubert are still highly prized today.

His most famous roles were the bass parts in operas by Mozart, Wagner, and the title role in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. In Germany he was also a famous Verdi interpreter. He was also a distinguished interpreter of German and Russian lieder (songs).

His son Igor Kipnis (1930-2002), was a celebrated harpsichordist and much of this biographical material was from a biography by him.

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