Ivan Jadan

The transliteration "Jadan", chosen however by himself, is pretty confusing; in standard transliteration, his name is Ivan Danilovich Zhadan, and that's also how it is pronounced.
If we ask an operatic fan which tenors shone on the scene of the Bolshoj in the 30s, the answer would be: Lemeshev and Kozlovskyj. Specifically during those years their stars ascended. However, there was one additional singer, whose craftsmanship was nothing inferior to those legendary personalities of the Soviet operatic scene. His name was Ivan Jadan! He does not appear in the books on Soviet operatic history. He is known only to specialists. Why?

Ivan Danilovich Jadan was born on September 22nd, 1902 in Luhansk into a blue collar family. When he was nine years old, he lived in a village, where his parents sent him to learn the blacksmith trade. Already in his childhood, Jadan loved singing. Jadan's singing career began at the age of ten, when Ivan was alto soloist in a Russian Orthodox church in the village of Kupanovka. Boy altos, not boy sopranos, became tenors.

He worked in his father's factory until 1923. In 1920, during his military service, Jadan was the first singer of the regiment. His friends advised him to enter a vocal group. There he learned some operatic excerpts. During a rehearsal of Evgenij Onegin, where Jadan sang Lenskij, he was introduced to his future wife Olga, who played the namesake role of Olga. In 1923, Ivan Danilovich Jadan went to Moscow. On the train to Moscow, Jadan's suitcase, with all what he owned in it, was stolen. So he set out to the Moscow conservatory, wet and shabby, hoping to be heard and accepted as a student. He carried with him a letter to Stalin's friend, Red Army marshal Voroshilov who had also been born in Luhansk, recommending the young tenor. The head of the Conservatory at that time was Boleslav Javorskyj, who fed him, gave him a pair of galoshes, and started teaching him. Ivan also studied at the conservatory with Egorov, whose wife was an able accompanist.

Life in the hostel was difficult, Jadan did not have enough money, he was forced to work as a blacksmith and at the air force academy. Jadan was always proud of that stage of his life. In 1926, Jadan appeared on the radio. In 1927, Jadan enters the operatic studio of the Bolshoj, which was headed by Stanislavskij, who appreciated the talent of Jadan, and his irreproachable diction. Roles studied under Stanislavskij included Lenskij, Vanja in Rimskij-Korsakov's opera Tsarskaja nevesta and Rodolfo in Puccini's Bohéme. That same year, Jadan auditioned for a competition organized by the Bolshoj. He was the only tenor chosen for the Bolshoj out of 40 tenors competing that year from all over the USSR. His first role at the Bolshoj was in Lakmé with only a few notes to sing, but a year later in 1928, Jadan was already ranked as first lyric tenor of the Bolshoj.

The career of Jadan developed quickly. After the successful performance of the Indian guest, he was entrusted with Sinodal (1929). Jadan had the great good fortune to have, as his coach and accompanist, Matvej Ivanovich Sakharov, a close friend of Rachmaninoff who had already left the USSR. Matvej Sakharov was the uncle of the physicist Andrej Sakharov, who was brought as a child by his uncle to hear Jadan sing. It was Sakharov who helped Jadan develop a great repertory of Russian art songs, or romances, a concert repertory unequaled by any other Russian tenor of his time. Jadan's sensitive interpretations of those great Russian romances call to mind Lotte Lehmann's interpretations of German lieder.

In 1930, he took part in the world premiere of Almast, opera by Aleksandr Spendiarov (real name Spendiarian).

Jadan toured the country from St. Petersburg to Baku as well as Tashkent, Samarkand and Vladivostok, extensively singing before workers.

He gave concerts to different army posts, including the Far East, for which he received an honorable certificate in 1935 from marshal Vasilij Konstantinovich Blücher, who was purged by Stalin a couple of years later. On the whole, he had a typical life of a skilled Soviet worker, plain and unambiguous, ideologically steadfast. He received enthusiastic letters from workers and collective farmers. Nothing predicted the forthcoming storm.

Jadan added to his repertory Lenskij, Faust, Duca, Berendej, the Simpleton, Vladimir Dubrovskij, Gérald, Almaviva, etc. In 1935, Jadan was sent to Turkey along with Shostakovich, violinist David Oistrakh and a group of Soviet singers: Valerija Barsova, Marija Maksakova, Pantelemon Nortsov, Aleksandr Pirogov. Turkish newspapers were full of enthusiastic praise about him. The first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, presented Jadan with a gold cigarette case, which Jadan kept as a special relic.

Jadan was one of the main soloists of the Bolshoj. Repeatedly, he sang at the Kremlin. Stalin regarded him with favor. The peak of his career was in 1937. Jadan's second view of an outside world, where people were free, came when he was invited in 1937 to Riga, Latvia, on the 100th anniversary of Pushkin's death. After a performance of Lenskij, there was an endless ovation. The tour was such a success that Jadan requested to prolong it so as to sing in Faust and Rigoletto. Since there were no costumes for those roles, the Soviet ambassador in Latvia sent a special plane to Moscow (a surprising case for those years), and the costumes were delivered to Riga.

However this was 1937! First somewhere the ambassador in Latvia disappeared, then the director of the Bolshoj, Vladimir Mutnyk – a friend of Jadan – was arrested. The situation got bad. Planned tours of Jadan to Lithuania and Estonia were cancelled. He was no longer invited to the Kremlin. This was a bad sign; other bad signs followed. He obtained low concert wages, at the opera he sang only Lenskij and Sinodal. On top of everything, he needed surgery to remove his tonsils. After a silence of one year, when Jadan was already written off, he made a triumphant return as Lensky. He had a new, deeper and more dramatic color in his voice.

It is difficult to say what fate had in store for him, but the war interfered. Life in his apartment on the top floor became dangerous. The army took his eldest son away, and the entire family moved to their dacha that he had built himself in Manikhino. The way to Moscow was cut off during one of the rapid offensives of the Germans. Soon the occupiers appeared also in Manikhino, Jadan recalled: The Germans captured Manikhino. Some members of the Bolshoj were in my house: the first violinist, who knew German well, the baritone Volkov and several other artists. A German officer entered and asked who we were. "Artists", babbled the pianist, frightened to death. The officer asked if we could sing Wagner, Volkov affirmatively nodded and sang an aria from Meistersinger.

The situation was hopeless. Jadan knew that the Kremlin had charged his best friend Aleksandr Pirogov with the fact that he did not evacuate from Moscow to Kujbyshev (today Samara) when ordered so. (It was because of his sick wife.) Only when charges acquired a threatening nature (the Kremlin indicated that Pirogov was waiting for the Germans), Pirogov was forced to evacuate together with his sick wife. But here it was even worse; they were in occupied territory! Jadan knew that this meant Gulag at best. With his wife, his youngest son and group of artists (13 people), they decided to depart together with the Germans. The Kremlin in retaliation exiled his 68-year mother-in-law, who had decided not to leave with them, to Krasnojarsk. The same fate awaited his eldest son, he was first sent to Kazakhstan, and then to Siberia. He was rehabilitated only in 1953. From the end of November 1941, Jadan's name disappeared, the same fate as for Pechkovskij. His records were withdrawn. Mentioning his name in the press was forbidden.

Jadan began a second life. Wandering with the Germans, he was saved because of his singing skills – Germans loved classical music. And Jadan with his family finally arrived in the American occupied zone, when the Germans capitulated. But the terrible days did not end. In favor of specific political interests, the allies agreed with Stalin to repatriate all displaced persons. That was a tragedy. By force, people were sent back where death awaited them, or imprisonment in camps if they were lucky. Jadan with his wife were forced to hide, to live separately, to change surnames, as they were hunted by the Soviet intelligence agencies.

And here an abrupt turn began in Jadan's life. He became acquainted with a young American woman Doris (she was 23 years old). They fell in love. Meanwhile, his wife Olga fell ill. A German doctor performed a most complex operation on Olga and she was saved. Doris, because of her connections with the US Secretary of State, succeeded in having Jadan emigrate to the USA, and then his wife. After her recovery, Olga agreed to divorce. Everything occured peacefully. Up to the end of her days, Olga remained friendly with Ivan. Olga Nikiforovna passed away in the USA in 1983.

Jadan's singing career was mostly over when he came to the US. He sang a few times for largely Russian audiences, twice at New York Town Hall and once at Carnegie Hall. In Tampa, Florida, Jadan gave concerts from 1952 to 1955, they were enthusiastically received and also recorded, but that was about it with singing.

Jadan's dream was to settle in a warm climate on the shore of the ocean. He realized that dream on the small island of Saint John in the Caribbean, where only 1000 people lived. His working habits from his youth proved useful. He worked as mason on one of the Rockefeller farms. After a few years, he had earned enough money to buy land, and built several cottages that he rented out to tourists from America and Europe.

His last concert took place on January 18th, 1966 on the island of Saint John. In the audience was Martha Koopman, an American woman who had heard him in Moscow at the end the 30s. In the newspaper Daily News, published in the Virgin Islands, she wrote the following: "Thirty-three years ago in Moscow, I had the enormous pleasure of listening to the opera "Eugene Onegin" on scene of the famous Bolshoj. The role of Lenskij was sung by a young lyric tenor with a voice of unusual timbre and emotional expressiveness. On Tuesday evening January 18, I again heard that voice, which belongs to Ivan Jadan... Jadan's voice, it is difficult to believe, had the same force, the same emotional expressiveness, such as I remembered him. Applause was so loud that it seemed there were five hundred people present, not fifty.".

He did not hope to visit his native land. But in Russia, new times came. At the end of the 80s, it became possible to make contact with his son. In 1990, Jadan was remembered on Russian television. And finally after half a century, Jadan could again enter his native land, and embrace his son. This occurred in August 1992, on the eve of Jadan's 90th birthday. He found out that many friends had not forgotten him, they had helped his son in those difficult years. Jadan visited Russia in 1993 for the last time.

On February 15th, 1995, Jadan died.

Pavel Lisitsian on Jadan:
"Having heard Zhadan for the first time, I was struck by the freedom of his singing and by the surprising beauty of his voice. Until now (1997), I specifically recall the upper register which seemed to fly into the hall like a rocket. He sang Ashug's aria from Almast by Spendiarov simply divinely. In 1939, I became soloist at the Bolshoj, my first role was Onegin, and my first Lenskij was Zhadan, by whom I was enraptured. He was an excellent partner, a wonderful person, and greatly loved. His praise for me after the opera was my reward.".

Reference 1 for biographical notes, picture, additional recordings
Reference 2 for biographical notes
Reference 3 for biographical notes
Reference 4: Doris Jadan Ivan Jadan (for Rachel and Anna), 23 stories about great moments in the life of their great uncle, 1995

Ivan Jadan sings Ej ukhnem
In RA format

Ivan Jadan singsSnegurochka: Polna, polna chudes (Nature is almighty)

Ivan Jadan singsPovij, vitre, na Vkrainu (Aleksandrova)

Ivan Jadan singsWerther: O ne budi menja
I wish to thank Vladimir Efimenko for the recordings (Werther, Snegurochka, Povij vitre na Vkrainu), and both him and Vera Lyakhova for their help in preparing this material.

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