Vasilij Petrovich Damaev

April 7 (19), 1878 Otradnaja (a Cossack village, now on the edge of Krasnodar) – October 11, 1932 Moscow

Damayev was born into a peasant family. He was a shepherd, studied violin and sang in the church choir during his childhood.

From 1895, he lived in Majkop. There he was heard by the well-known music critic I. Gar. His voice made a strong impression on Gar. With the support of the passionate singing amateur, he left for Moscow.

Starting in 1903 in Moscow, he took voice lessons with the singer V. P. Kozlovoj (Kuznetsov and K. K. Ushkov, of the Gubkin company, paid for his lessons). 1904–05, he studied at the Moscow Musical and Drama school with M. Medvedev, and continued with A. M. Uspenskij. He took part in charitable concerts, singing romances and traditional Russian songs, while he sang again in a church choir.

In 1906, he was accepted by the Zimin Opera company in Moscow, where his first operatic roles were studied with the stage director P. S. Olenin and the conductor E. A. Kuper (Cooper). On August 31, 1908 he made his debut as Grigorij. He stayed there until 1920.

1921–22, he sang at the Nash Theater, 1922–24 at the Aquarium (from 1926, he was the manager of the company), and at the new Zimin.

1928–30, he was artistic director and soloist of a Moscow-based touring opera company, with which he went to Barnaul, Arkhangelsk, Rjazan and Tule.

1931–32, Damaev worked at the Moscow theatre museum.

At the invitation of Serge Diaghilev, who called him the Russian Tamagno, he appeared at the Russian seasons in Paris and London in 1909, 1911, 1913. He sang also in Monte Carlo (1913).

From 1906, he gave frequent concerts with Russian romances and national songs in Russian cities such as Orel, Rjazan, Jaroslavl, Smolensk, Kharkiv, Tambov, Saratov, ... 1908–09, he gave concerts in Sochi. In spring 1910, he went on a concert tour along the Volga together with Serge Koussevitzky and Aleksandr Skrjabin. Every year, he arranged concerts of ancient Russian songs in one the halls of the Bolshoj. After 1917, he repeatedly sang before workers and Red Army soldiers.

His repertory of approximately 50 roles included: Pedro, Ruvim (Ruf/Ruth by Ippolitov-Ivanov), Orestes (Oresteja by Taneev), Stolzing, Johnson, Tucha, Andrej Khovanskij, Toropka Golovan (Askold's grave), Andrej Morozov (Oprichnik), Sadko, Levko, Raoul, José, Otello, Radames, Canio, Cavaradossi, Sobinin, Grigorij, Gvidon, German, Akhior (Judif/Judith by A. Serov), Samson, Jean de Leyden, Rodolfo.

His partners included: P. Z. Andreev, M. V. Bocharov, M. I. Brian, M. Guj, A. I. Dobrovolskaja, S. I. Druzjakina, K. D. Zaporozhets, V. I. Kastorskij, L. Lipkovskaja, V. V. Ljutse, V. V. Osipov, E. F. Petrenko, V. N. Petrov-Zvantseva, N. I. Speranskij, V. N. Trubin, M. D. Turchaninova, F. I. Shaljapin, N. A. Shevelev, F. F. Ernst.

Some of the conductors he worked with included: M. Ippolitov-Ivanov, M. M. Cooper, E. A. Cooper, I. O. Palitsyn, E. E. Plotnikov, Ju. M. Slavinskij, N. Cherepnin.

He recorded for Gramophone, Pathé, Lirofon and Gramplasttrest.

His son Dmitri Vasilevich Damaev (1903–1988) was also a tenor, a soloist at the Moscow operetta theater, then at operetta company of the Moscow province.

His daughter Marina (1915–1982) worked as a ballerina at the Bolshoj.

He is buried on Preobrazhenskij cemetery.

The tenors Damaev and Dygas had magnificent voices, the former with free top notes, the latter with a rich, almost baritonal middle range. Damaev, having been a shepherd, didn't have much training and began with heavy roles quite early on. Being a slave to his own temperament, he would sometimes fade out towards the second half of a big opera: the timbre would lose its sheen, and the pitch would start playing tricks. It was a pity, as with his natural gifts he could have become a great singer, but obviously it was beyond his powers not to force.
The Levik memoirs: An opera singer's notes.

Vasilij Damaev singsBoris Godunov: Dmitrij! Tsarevich!, with Sofja Druzjakina
Sofja Druzjakina, née Menzel, May 17 (29), 1880 Kiev – October 3, 1953 Moscow

Vasilij Damaev singsPikovaja dama: Chto nasha zhizn?

Vasilij Damaev singsLa bohème: Che gelida manina, in Russian
In RA format

Vasilij Damaev singsSadko: Vysota li, vysota podnebesnaja
In RA format

Vasilij Damaev singsOprichnik: Druzja i goresten, i sladok ehtot den
In RA format

Vasilij Damaev singsPagliacci: Vesti la giubba, in Russian
I wish to thank Richard J. Venezia for the recording (Bohème).
I wish to thank Vladimir Efimenko for his help.
Source for the Pagliacci recording: Russian Records.

Lirofon, Moskva 1910
Rss815  Dobrynja Nikitin (Grechaninov): Rastsvetali v pole tsvetiki		 815
Rss816  Cherevichki (Chajkovskij): Slyshit li, devitsa, serdtse tvoe		 816
Rss817  Sadko (Rimskij-Korsakov): O you dark oak grove                           817
Rss818  Pikovaja dama (Chajkovskij): Chto nasha zhizn?				 818
Rss819  Pezn v izganii (Ippolitov-Ivanov)                                        819
Rss820  Kak mne bolno (Rakhmaninov)                                              820
Rss955  Zashumela, razguljalas (Sokolov)					 955

Gramophone, Moskva January/February 1910
1919c   Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner): Walther's aria                      unpublished
1920c   May night (Rimskij-Korsakov): Sleep, my beauty                           022142, HMB27
1922c   May night (Rimskij-Korsakov): Is she asleep? (w. Petrova-Zvantseva)      024038
1922½c  May night (Rimskij-Korsakov): Is she asleep? (w. Petrova-Zvantseva)      unpublished
1923c   Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns): C'est toi, c'est toi, mon bien-aimé      024033, HMB162 
        (w. Petrova-Zvantseva) 
1978c   Aida (Verdi): Celeste Aida                                               unpublished
14167b  Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner): Am stillen Herd                     4-22063
14201b  Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner): Am stillen Herd                     4-22063x
14202b  Dobrynya Nikitich (Grechaninov): Flowers were blooming in the fields     4-22087, Muztrust 2165
14203b  Sadko (Rimskij-Korsakov): O you dark oak-grove                           4-22088, Muztrust 2166

Gramophone, Moskva February 1911
2177c   Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner): Morgenlich leuchtend                022193
2178c   Sadko (Rimskij-Korsakov): Ho, faithful friends                           022194,  HMB98
2178½c  Sadko (Rimskij-Korsakov): Ho, faithful friends                           022194x
2180c   Aida (Verdi): Celeste Aida                                               022195
2181c   Bohème (Puccini): Che gelida manina                                      022196
2182c   Pikovaja dama (Chajkovskij): Forgive me, heavenly creature               unpublished
15331½b Cherevichki (Chajkovskij): Does your heart hear, darling?                4-22247, HMA198
15333b  Pikovaja dama (Chajkovskij): What is our life?                           4-22248
15357b  May night (Rimskij-Korsakov): Boys, have you heard (w. chorus)           4-22249
15358b  Sadko (Rimskij-Korsakov): The height of the sky (w. chorus)              4-22250
15359b  Mazepa (Chajkovskij): Send me to the Tzar (w. chorus)                    4-22246

Pathé, Moskva 1911
        Cherevichki (Chajkovskij): Song of Vakula                                27456
40528   Pikovaja dama (Chajkovskij): What is our life?                           27457
        Pikovaja dama (Chajkovskij): Forgive me, bright celestial vision         27460
43320   Neron (Rubinstein): Strophes                                             27461

Gramophone, Moskva October 1911
16111b  Oprichnik (Chajkovskij): As before God, so before you                    4-22284
16112b  Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): Ridi Pagliaccio                                 unpublished
2507c   Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): Vesti la giubba                                 022228

Gramophone, Moskva November 1912
247af   Sadko (Rimskij-Korsakov): As if I had a chest of gold                    022298, HM98 
248af	Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): Vesti la giubba                                 022325
249af	Pikovaja dama (Chajkovskij): Chto nasha zhizn?				 022300
250af   Sadko (Rimskij-Korsakov): Your tresses shine like honey-hued dew         024073
        (w. Druzjakina)
251af   Boris Godunov (Musorgskij): O tsarevich, umoljaju (w. Druzjakina)        024068
252af	Aida (Verdi): Celeste Aida						 022305
4033ae  Tosca: E lucevan le stelle 	                                         4-22476,  Muzpred422476

Gramophone, Moskva December 1913
2944c   Fanciulla del West (Puccini): Ch'ella mi creda                           022348
2945c   Fanciulla del West (Puccini): Aria, act 2                                unpublished
2946c   Halka (Moniuszko): The wind wails                                        022350
2947c   Rusalka (Dargomizhsky): Everything here reminds me                       022355
2948c   Nero (Rubinstein): Ah, my fate                                           022354
2949c   Carmen (Bizet): La fleur                                                 022347
2951c   Carmen (Bizet): Oui, je parlerais (w. Katulskaja)                        024100
2952c   May night (Rimskij-Korsakov): Duet (w. Katulskaja)                       024092, HMB27
2962c   Oprichnik (Chajkovskij): Morozov's farewell (w. chorus)                  HMB162
2962½c  Oprichnik (Chajkovskij): Morozov's farewell (w. chorus)                  unpublished
2965c   Crucifix (Faure) (w. Tikhonov)                                           unpublished
2965½c  Crucifix (Faure) (w. Tikhonov)                                           024089
18557b  May night (Rimskij-Korsakov): Sleep, my beauty                           4-22671
18558b  Rafael (Arensky): My heart trembles with passion and tenderness          HMA198
18559b  Faust (Gounod): Il était temps (Invocation)                              4-22791
18570b  Pikovaja dama (Chajkovskij): I do not know her name                      unpublished
18570½b Pikovaja dama (Chajkovskij): I do not know her name                      4-22678
18652b  The maid of Pskov (Rimskij-Korsakov): Sing, cuckoo                       4-22656
18653b  Sadko (Rimskij-Korsakov): The height of the sky (w. chorus)              4-22717
18654b  The maid of Pskov (Rimskij-Korsakov): Men of Pskov, assemble             X-2-62411
18654½b The maid of Pskov (Rimskij-Korsakov): Men of Pskov, assemble             4-22787

Gramplasttrest, Moskva 1938
        Zolotaja dolina (Dunaevskij): A u nas					 7505
	(w. Lazareva, Lebedeva, Zarubeev, Kulakov, Karpov and Krainskij)
Reference for the discography the excellent website (defunct), and the equally excellent website Russian Records.

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