Jānis Zābers

Zābers was born on August 8th, 1935 in Meirāni, Latvia.

He studied at the Latvian State Conservatory in Riga with A. Vilumanis. He graduated in 1961.

Zābers sang at the Latvian Opera from 1960. For further studies, he went to Rome in 1962 and Milan in 1964, where he studied with Faveretto and Barra.

Zābers then returned to Riga and was quickly recognized as one of the outstanding tenors in Eastern Europe.

Although in demand to sing elsewhere, the Soviet policy about Baltic singers singing abroad was a stifling one, and aside from his fortunate period in Italy, Zābers was not allowed any further meaningful contacts with the West.

Although he had many roles in his repertory – among them Manrico, Alfredo, des Grieux, Turiddu, Faust, German, Vladimir Igorevich, Cavaradossi, Rodolfo, Faust, Antiņš (Zelta zirgs/The golden horse by Žilinskis), Aleksis (Audriņi by Grāvītis), Jurka (Sniegputeņos/In the snow drifts by Grāvītis) –, his recorded legacy is rather small. Not a single recording of an entire opera lists Zābers in the cast.

From 1968, he suffered more and more from headaches and vertigo, and was time and again too sick to sing. His last operatic performance, as Andrej in Khovanshchina, took place in December 1970. In 1971, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which made him lose the ability to speak and sing, and from which he died at the age of 37 on March 25th, 1973 in Riga.

Reference 1: Arkadij Pruzhanskij, Otechestvennye pevtsy 1750–1917, vol. 2, Moscow 2000
Reference 2: persons.com.ua (defunct)
Reference 3

Jānis Zābers sings Core 'ngrato

Jānis Zābers sings Guten Abend, gute Nacht, in Latvian

Jānis Zābers sings La fanciulla del West: Ch'ella mi creda

Jānis Zābers sings Tosca: Recondita armonia

Jānis Zābers sings Pikovaja dama: Prosti, nebesnoe sozdanye (Forgive me, bright celestial vision)

Jānis Zābers sings La traviata: Dei miei bollenti spiriti

Jānis Zābers sings La bohème: Che gelida manina

Jānis Zābers sings Knjaz Igor: Medlenno den ugasal (Daylight is fading)
I wish to thank Vladimir Efimenko for the recordings (Core 'ngrato, Wiegenlied).
I wish to thank Vilijandas Bagdonavičius for the recordings (Fanciulla, Tosca, Pikovaja dama, Traviata, Bohème, Knjaz Igor).
I wish to thank the late Harold Byrnes for the biographical notes.

Go Home