Dmitrij Alekseevich Smirnov was born in Moscow on the 19th (7th) of November, 1885. As a law student,
he sang in an amateur troupe that occasionally staged opera performances; this led to his serious vocal studies with the renowned
teacher Emilia Pavlovskaja. He made his debut with the Mamontov Opera Company (at the Moscow Hermitage Theater) in 1903, in the world
premiere of Camorra by Esposito.
His Bolshoj debut followed the next year; sources differ on the opera, it was either as
Sinodal in Demon or as Bajan in Ruslan i Ljudmila. Anyway, he sang both roles at the Bolshoj, as well as Alfredo, Jontek,
Duca (his signature role) and Lenskij; on 11 January 1906, he created Dante in Rachmaninoff's Francesca da Rimini.
From 1907 onwards, he was also a member of the Mariinskij, without leaving the Bolshoj; plus he already sang a lot abroad, starting
in 1907 with Serge Diaghilev's concerts of Russian music in Paris. On December 30th, 1910, he made his Met debut as Duca, but had no
success and left the Met quickly; Boston brought him no luck, either. But he was very successful after that in South America
(particularly at the Colón) and all over Europe: Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and again and again France; in 1914,
he came to London (Drury Lane Theater), with lesser success.
His highly individualistic singing evidently divided listeners. Sergej Levik basically disliked him; while acknowledging the quality
of his voice, he found him a superficial, show-off interpreter, and heard an irritating tremolo in his voice (which is pretty
surprising for anyone familiar with Smirnov's records). Fjodor Shaljapin, in marked contrast, raved about Smirnov, with whom he
performed very frequently.
After the October Revolution, Smirnov left the Soviet Union, although he returned for a couple of guest appearances. He lived in Paris,
where he was popular. After he had ended his career, he became a voice teacher and moved to London (1935–37, where he still
sang on the radio), Athens (1937–41) and, finally, Riga, where he died on April 27th, 1944.
Reference: Pearl CD, Preiser and Rubini LP liner notes, Wikipedia