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Ildar Abdrazakov [ahb-drah-ZAH-koff] has established himself as one of opera’s most sought-after basses. Since making his La Scala debut in 2001 at 25, the Russian singer has become a mainstay at leading houses worldwide, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera, and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera. His powerful yet refined voice coupled with his compelling stage presence have prompted critics to hail him as a “sensational bass…who has just about everything – imposing sound, beautiful legato, oodles of finesse” (The Independent). Also an active concert artist, he has performed at London’s BBC Proms and at New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as with leading international orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic.

This September, Abdrazakov headlines the gala opening of the Met’s 2014-15 season in the title role in a new Sir Richard Eyre production of Le nozze di Figaro under James Levine. It was ten years ago under the baton of the revered maestro that the young bass made his company debut in another Mozart opera, Don Giovanni. Other highlights of Abdrazakov’s fall season include an appearance at the Richard Tucker Music Foundation’s annual gala at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall, a return to the role of Escamillo in the Met’s Carmen, and back-to-back Live in HD broadcasts of both Figaro and Carmen to movie theaters around the globe. European opera engagements in 2014-15 include Moïse in Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon at the Marseille Opera, Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust at the Paris Opera and the Teatro Regio di Torino, and Mustafà in L’Italiana in Algeri at the Vienna State Opera. On the concert stage, Abdrazakov presents a solo program for the Palm Beach Opera’s annual gala and joins the Staatskapelle Dresden under the baton of Christian Thielemann for performances of Verdi’s Requiem at the Salzburg Easter Festival.

Over the past decade since his house debut, Abdrazakov has become a mainstay at the Metropolitan Opera. Last season he sang the title role in a new staging of Borodin’s Prince Igor – a performance captured on DVD and Blu-ray by Deutsche Grammophon, out this September. Other notable Met productions include his role debut as Henry VIII opposite Anna Netrebko in Anna Bolena to open the company’s 2011-12 season, Dosifei in Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, and the title role in a new production of Verdi’s Attila under the baton of Riccardo Muti. At La Scala, Abdrazakov joined Muti in concert for the reopening of the theater in 2004-05, and that same season he sang Moses in a production of Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon that was recorded and released on CD and DVD. It was in the same role – in a new production led by Muti – that the bass made his Salzburg Festival debut in 2009, and he has also sung Moses with the Italian maestro in Rome. Abdrazakov first appeared at London’s Royal Opera House in 2009, performing Verdi’s Requiem in concert with Sir Antonio Pappano, and he has since returned there to sing Don Basilio in Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

The title role in The Marriage of Figaro was the vehicle for Abdrazakov’s 1998 house debut at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre. Among his other signature roles are both the title character and Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni; Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust and Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust; Oroveso in Bellini’s Norma; Selim in Rossini’s Turk in Italy, and Assur in his Semiramide. The Russian bass is noted for Verdi roles including Walter in Luisa Miller and the title character in Oberto, as well as Attila and Banquo.

Abdrazakov has appeared with virtually every major opera company in the United States and Europe. Besides those already mentioned, he has sung on the stages of Barcelona’s Teatre Liceu, Madrid’s Teatro Real, Paris’s Opéra Bastille, the San Francisco Opera, the Washington National Opera, and the Los Angeles Opera. On the concert stage, he has given recitals in Russia, Italy, Japan, and the United States, and performed with orchestras including the Chicago Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de France, the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, and Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Among the noted conductors with whom he has collaborated are Riccardo Muti, Valery Gergiev, James Levine, Gianandrea Noseda, Bertrand de Billy, Riccardo Frizza, Riccardo Chailly, and Sir Antonio Pappano.

Abdrazakov’s debut solo album, Power Players, a celebration of the great Russian bass roles, was released in early 2014 on Delos, to great critical acclaim. His recording of Verdi’s Requiem with Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony won a Grammy Award, and he has recorded unpublished arias by Rossini with Riccardo Chailly and the Symphony Orchestra of Milan, Giuseppe Verdi for Decca, and Cherubini’s Mass with Muti and the Bayerischer Rundfunk for EMI Classics. For Chandos, he has recorded Shostakovich’s Suite on Verses of Michelangelo and Rachmaninoff’s The Miserly Knight, both with Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic. The bass’s DVD releases include Moïse et Pharaon from La Scala, Oberto from Bilbao, Norma from Parma, and Lucia di Lammermoor from the Metropolitan Opera. Marking the Verdi bicentennial, May 2013 saw Abdrazakov’s star turn in the title role of Attila immortalized on the Mariinsky label’s first DVD/Blu-ray release.

Abdrazakov was born in 1976 in the city of Ufa, then the capital of the Soviet republic of Bashkiria. His parents were both artists: his mother was a painter and his late father, a director. Abdrazakov began acting in his father’s stage and film productions at age four, and it was these early experiences that inspired him to pursue a career in the arts. Upon graduating from the Ufa State Institute of Arts, he joined the Bashkirian Opera and Ballet Theatre. In the late 1990s, he won a string of prestigious vocal competitions: the Moscow Grand Prix named after Irina Arkhipova, the Glinka International Vocal Competition, the Rimsky-Korsakov International Competition, and the International Obraztsova competition. His 2000 win at the Maria Callas International Television Competition in Parma thrust him into the international spotlight and led to his debut at La Scala the following year.

© 21C Media Group, August 2014