Aleksandr Ivanovich Alekseev

October 20, 1895 – July 3, 1939
Aleksandr Alekseev was born on the 20th of October (1st of November) 1895 in the city of Novij Margelan (now Fergana, Uzbekistan). His family came from the Viatsk region of Russia. His father worked in a gun factory, and his mother was a house keeper. He had five brothers and sisters. Although his family was not wealthy, they did everything possible to give their children the best available schooling.

All of his family loved to sing folk songs and romances. His mother knew many songs, and his father had a very nice tenor voice. Aleksandr also liked to sing, and had a resounding voice and perfect musical ear. From the age of 6, his father started to give him lessons in playing the violin, and the little boy learned how to read notes very easily.

At school, the singing teacher, who was also a choir leader, immediately discerned young Alekseev's talent. The choir was mixed – 150 boys and girls. Young Alekseev not only became a soloist of the ensemble, but when he was 14 years old and his talent showed itself even more, the choir leader even gave him the opportunity to conduct the choir. In addition to that, he learned how to play the piano, mandolin, guitar, balalaika and accordion.

For the first time in 1913, Alekseev took part in an amateur staging of the opera "Ivan Susanin" by Glinka, singing a secondary role. From that moment on, he had developed such a great interest in music and theater that he decided he had one goal only – to become a professional singer. He traveled to Moscow to study.

Alekseev got acquainted with N. P. Miller, a renowned singer and vocal teacher. When he heard Alekseev sing, he said to him: "A natural talent like the one you have is a very rare thing. But you have to abandon any thoughts of becoming a baritone, because you only try to imitate one. The voice you have is a true lyrical tenor with a soft nature and a full range, and also very agile. But you will be able to sing also in more dramatic and heavier roles, because your voice sounds very well in the lower range, too."

N. P. Miller agreed to teach Alekseev and get him prepared for the opera stage, but recommended quite an unusual way of doing so – he said: "Unlike what I propose to most young singers that come to me, I am not insisting that you enroll in a conservatory. Your natural talent, your musical ear and memory are developed enough even at this stage. I will deal with the development of your voice, but you must also prepare yourself to the stage: how to control yourself and feel comfortable on stage, how not to fear a big audience. And most important – learn how to 'live' on stage, how to create roles. And that, you have not mastered so far."

To gain some stage experience, Miller gave Alekseev the advice to try and begin working with the actors of the theater of K. S. Stanislavskij and V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko. He also gave him another advice: to study another profession, as well, just in case his singing career would not go ahead as expected. Following that advice, Alekseev enrolled in the Moscow High Technical College at the faculty of mechanics.

Alongside his studies at the Technical College, he studied voice and performed in amateur stagings. He studied with Miller for three years, which provided him with the basics of his professional vocal art.

In 1917, Alekseev already started performing on the stage of the Tashkent Technical College, and that was the beginning of his career.

In 1918, Alekseev is in Fergana again, his home city. He was enlisted in the Red Army, served in an infantry unit and used to sing a lot for other soldiers. Army authorities realized that and made him responsible for military singing troupes; he started by forming a choir within his own unit, and ended up with a huge choir of 600 men coming from different units.

Alongside that, Alekseev kept studying – he took lessons at the People's Conservatory, and graduated from chorister courses in Tashkent. There in 1918, he also sang at the opera house, the role of Sinodal in "Demon" by A. G. Rubinstein. Despite the success, he realized he still didn't have enough experience on stage, and with the help of the army authorities went to Moscow.

Alekseev decided to go through entrance examination and was accepted to the MOSSOVET Theater of Musical Drama (formerly known as the Zimin Opera). There he succeeded in gaining a lot of experience and appeared in roles of different character and nature.

So as to learn how to combine his vocal abilities with dramatic skills that allow to make the best of every role, Alekseev entered the opera studio that was organized as a branch of the Bolshoj Theater by K. S. Stanislavskij. With Stanislavskij, he worked on the roles of the Duke in "Rusalka" by Dargomyzhskij, Werther, Lenskij, Roméo and others.

In 1924 Alexeev joined the Musical Theater, which was created by V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko on the basis of the studio of the Moscow Art Theater. There he tried himself in the genre of musical comedy and operetta.

Finally, at this stage Alekseev felt prepared for the entry examination to the Bolshoj Theater, and in early 1925 became a soloist there. He finds himself alongside many great singers: A. Nezhdanova, E. Stepanova, E. Katulskaja, K. Derzinskaja, L. Sobinov, V. Petrov, S. Migaj, N. Ozerov and others. In three years alone he succeeds in appearing in seventeen roles, and throughout his career sings forty-four roles.

The musicologist E. A. Grosheva writes about Alekseev: "When you think about Aleksandr Alekseev as of a singer, the first thing that comes to mind is the reminiscence of his voice – the purest lyrical voice. His voice had a wide range and possessed many vocal colors. Alekseev did not only possess a beautiful 'piano' and 'pianissimo', but also a weighty, powerful 'forte' – something that is rare for lyrical tenors. In the many reviews of his singing it was often underlined that his higher register was extremely full-bodied and impressive, which gave him the opportunity to appear in roles that called for great dramatic tension, such as the role of Vladimir Dubrovskij, the role of Rodolfo in La bohème and especially Calaf in Turandot".

Alexeev died on the 29th of June, 1939. His last performance was on March 27th, 1939, at the Bolshoj as Gvidon in "The tale of Tsar Saltan".

Aleksandr Alekseev recorded little: about 10 records, plus some excerpts from La traviata and Rigoletto for a 1937 film.

Aleksandr Alekseev sings Lieder des Mirza-Schaffy: Klubitsja volnoju kipucheju Kur (= Gelb rollt mir zu Füßen)
In RA format

Aleksandr Alekseev sings Rigoletto: Serdtse krasavits
The biography has been contributed by Igor Milner: thank you very much!
I wish to thank Vladimir Efimenko for the recording (Rigoletto) and discographical notes.

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