Ivan Kozlovskyj

Ivan Semenovych Kozlovskyj was born on March 24 (11), 1900 year in Marjanivka, a village in the Kiev province. His first musical experiences in life were associated with his father, who sang beautifully, and played the harmonica. Kozlovskyj had an exceptional ear, and the nature delivered a beautiful voice. Not surprisingly, the very young Kozlovskyj began to sing in a church choir in Kiev.

Soon Kozlovskyj was a member of a bigger chorus, together with his brother. That chorus was led by the famous Ukrainian composer and chorus master Oleksandr Koshyts (September 12, 1875 – September 21, 1944), who became the first professional mentor of the talented singer.

Oleksandr Koshyts

On recommendation of Koshyts, Kozlovskyj entered the vocal faculty of the Mykola Lysenko Music and Drama Institute in 1917. He studied in the class of Olena Oleksandrivna Muravjova (22 May/3 June 1867 Kharkiv – 11 November 1939 Kiev), who had been a soloist of the Bolshoj from 1890 to 1901 and was one of the most renowned voice teachers in the Ukraine; other than Kozlovskyj, she schooled more than 400 singers, among them Oleksandra Byshevska, Zoja Hajdaj, Larisa Rudenko, Miliza Korjus, Mykola Shostak. She was also personally acquainted with composers like Lysenko, Ljatoshynskyj, Kosenko, Revutskyj, Glier, Khachaturian or Prokofyev.

Lysenko Music and Drama Institute

Kozlovskyj's instruction was cut short after two years, due to the outbreak of the civil war in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Kozlovskyj sang in a vocal quartet under the direction of O. Svechnikov. His voice, however, enabled him to join the army engineers, as a lead singer in a military band (22nd Infantry Engineer Brigade in Poltava).

Having received permission to combine his military service and his civil musical aspirations, Kozlovskyj was involved in productions of the Poltava Music and Drama Theatre, where he made his debut as Faust in 1920. Here Kozlovskyj emerged as an opera singer.

In 1924, the singer made a brilliant debut in "Faust" at the Kharkiv opera house, which soon allowed him to take a leading position in the troupe. A year later, rejecting tempting offers from the famous Kirov/Mariinskij, Kozlovskyj moved to the Sverdlovsk Opera House.

In 1926, Kozlovskyj's name first appeared on billboards in Moscow. He made his debut at the Bolshoj as Alfredo in "La traviata". The evening's conductor, Ippolitov-Ivanov, said after the performance: This singer is a promising phenomenon for the art. He was to stay there until 1954. Bolshoj soprano Natalya Shpiller stated: In the mid-twenties at the Bolshoj, a new name – Ivan Kozlovskyj – appeared. His timbre, his way of singing, his acting indicated a clearly defined rare personality. Kozlovskyj's voice was never particularly powerful, however the freedom of his sound, his ability to project allowed the singer to be heard over a large orchestra. Kozlovskyj can sing over an orchestra of any size. His voice is always clear, ringing, without a hint of stress. His breathing, his flexible and fluent use of the upper register, his perfect diction made him a truly flawless vocalist.

In 1927, Kozlovskyj sang the Simpleton, it became the top role in his creative life, and a true masterpiece of performing art. Here's what Pavel Pichugin wrote: ... Lenskij and the Simpleton! It is hard to find two signature roles of the Russian operatic literature whose musical aesthetics are more dissimilar, more contrasting, and to some extent even incompatible, and yet Lenskij and the Simpleton are the highest achievements of Kozlovskyj in almost equal measure. The Holy Fool, whose image Kozlovskyj created with unparalleled vigour, became in his rendition of Pushkin's great phrase the expression of "the people's destiny" in the Pushkinian sense, the voice of the people, the cry of their suffering. Kozlovskyj performed everything in that scene with inimitable skills, from the first to the last word of the nonsensical song "The moon is flying, the kitten is crying", to the famous sentence "Do not pray for Tsar Herod", it is full of such bottomless depths of meaning and significance that the truth of life (and the truth of art) raises this episodic role to the brink of the tragic ... There are some – few! – roles in the theatrical literature that are, in our impression, inseparably associated with one specific interpreter. That's the case of the Simpleton. He will forever linger in our memory as – Kozlovskyj.

Kozlovskyj sang about fifty roles. He was renowned for his high register and his rich palette of shadings. His singing was extremely emotional, sometimes even balancing on the border of rigid taste.

Well, it's certainly true that many a composer would have been much surprised to hear what Kozlovskyj did with their music. But taste? You don't bicker with a genius about taste! And a genius, that's what Kozlovskyj was. His interpretations were not simply "individualistic", they were positively unique, and definitely never boring. If they were, at times, not quite in line with the style of the composer, they were still not erratic, but transformed the music into a new style that was entirely Kozlovskyj's own. A singer that you (not least due to his equally unique timbre) either love or hate. Needless to stress that I love him.
Olga Dashevskaja wrote: At the Bolshoj, he sang a variety of parts – lyrical and epic, dramatic and sometimes tragic. The best of them: the Astrologer, José, Lohengrin, the Prince (L'amour des trois oranges), Lenskij, Berendej, Almaviva, Faust, Alfredo, the Duke... it is difficult to enumerate all the roles. Combining philosophical aspects with accuracy and social characteristics of the character, Kozlovskyj created unique portrayals.

His characters loved and suffered, their feelings were always simple, natural, deep and sincere, recalled soprano Elisaveta Shumskaja.

From the very beginning of his career, Kozlovskyj combined the operatic stage and the concert stage. His concert repertoire included hundreds of works: Bach cantatas, Beethoven's cycle An die ferne Geliebte, Schumann's Dichterliebe, Ukrainian and Russian folk songs. A special place was reserved to romances, e. g. by Glinka, Taneev, Rachmaninoff, Dargomyzhskij, Chajkovskij, Rimskij-Korsakov, Medtner, Grechaninov, Varlamov, Bulakhov and Guriljov.

In 1938 at the initiative of Nemirovich-Danchenko and under the artistic direction of Kozlovskyj, the State Opera Ensemble of the USSR was created. It included such famous singers as Maksakova and Petrov as consultants. Over the three years of existence of the ensemble, Kozlovskyj realized a number of interesting opera productions in concert format: "Werther", "Pagliacci", "Orfeo ed Euridice" (Gluck), "Mozart i Salieri", "Kateryna" (Arkas), and "Gianni Schicchi".

During the war Kozlovskyj was part of the concert brigades performing for the soldiers and giving concerts in liberated towns. In the postwar period, in addition to his appearances as a soloist, Kozlovskyj continues his work as a stage director.

After leaving the Bolshoj in 1954, Kozlovskyj appeared occasionally on stage until 1970 (primarily as the Simpleton in Boris). But he still sang regularly in concert in the 1970s, and sang on July 4th, 1985 at the celebration for Rejzen's 90th birthday at the Bolshoj. He taught at the Gnesin State Musical College from 1956 to 1980.

In old age, Kozlovskyj did not diminish his creative activity. No significant event in the life of the country went without the participation of Kozlovskyj. In his native village Marjanivka, he opened a music school. There, he worked enthusiastically with young singers, and performed with a chorus of students.

In the 1950s, he recorded soldier's songs and Russian folk songs with the Aleksandrov Ensemble. Nikita Krushchjov (the USSR leader customarily but erroneously transcribed as Khrushchev in English) said in his autobiography that Kozlovskyj was Stalin's favourite tenor (and that Kozlovskyj was unhappy about it). In spite of this, Kozlovskyj was never allowed to perform in the West because his brother Fedir, who was also a singer, had left the Ukraine to tour Europe with Oleksandr Koshyts in 1919. Upon hearing of the Bolshevik takeover of the Ukraine, he refused to return. Fedir became a Ukrainian Orthodox priest and lived on the outskirts of New York City.

Galina Sergeeva

Kozlovskyj was married twice, first to the popular actress Oleksandra Hertsyk (1886–1964) much better known than he was at the beginning (thus his early nickname "Hertsyk's husband"), then to the actress Galina Sergeeva, which latter marriage did not last long. Ivan Kozlovskyj died on December 21st, 1993 in Moscow.

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Ivan Kozlovskyj singsEvgenij Onegin: Ja ljublju vas, Olga (I love you, Olga), with Elizaveta Antonova
In RA format

Ivan Kozlovskyj sings Ne veter, veja s vysoty (Rimskij-Korsakov)
In RA format

Ivan Kozlovskyj & Zurab Anjaparidze sing Daisi: Tavo chemo
Kozlovskyj in his 60s, singing the aria from the Georgian national opera from the sheet, in Georgian, supported by native Georgian Anjaparidze; there's a video of this, obviously from a newsreel or a TV documentary.
In RA format

Ivan Kozlovskyj singsHalka: Mezh gorami veter voet
In RA format

Ivan Kozlovskyj singsIl barbiere di Siviglia: Ecco ridente in cielo, in Russian
Muti would not approve.
In RA format

Ivan Kozlovskyj singsBoris Godunov: Mesjats edet, kotjonok plachet, with Aleksandr Pirogov
In RA format

Ivan Kozlovskyj singsBoris Godunov: Lejtes, lejtes, sljozy gorkie
In RA format

Ivan Kozlovskyj & Sergej Lemeshev singEvgenij Onegin: Ja ljublju vas, Olga (I love you, Olga)
In RA format

I never had the possibility to hear either of them live, and till I knew this recording, I'd NEVER have guessed that the bigger of the two voices was Kozlovskyj's by far! It's a touching event somehow: Olga Knipper was Anton Chekhov's widow and decades his younger; after his death, she became one of the most famous and revered Russian actresses. When she was an old lady, there was a public celebration of her umpteenth stage jubilee, and on that occasion, Kozlovskyj & Lemeshev entered the stage (where Knipper was sitting) together and sang Lenskij's "I love you, Olga", with an altered text praising the artistic merits of Olga Knipper. I think the way they're doing it is really, really charming... e.g. when Kozlovskyj starts, with fervour, "I love you", and Lemeshev echoes "I love you" – and adds his due "Olga" in the most whimsical way, turning away from his colleague towards Knipper.
Olga Leonardovna Knipper, 21 (9) September 1868 Glazov – 22 March 1959 Moscow; she was among the 39 original members of the Moscow Art Theatre, when the latter was formed by Konstantin Stanislavskij in 1898. She was the first to play Arkadina in The seagull (1898), Masha in The three sisters, and Madame Ranevskaja in The cherry orchard (1904). The author of these plays was Anton Chekhov, who had married her in 1901. Knipper-Chekhova played Ranevskaja again in 1943, when the theatre celebrated the 300th performance of The cherry orchard. The German actress Olga Chekhova was her niece and the Soviet composer Lev Knipper was her nephew.

Ivan Kozlovskyj singsKrasnoflotskaja pesnja (Blanter)

Ivan Kozlovskyj singsRigoletto: Serdtse krasavits
In RA format

Ivan Kozlovskyj sings Majskaja noch: Spi, moja krasavitsa (Sleep, my beauty)
In RA format
I wish to thank Robert Schlesinger for the recording (Kozlovskyj & Lemeshev singing together) and associated notes.
I wish to thank Vladimir Efimenko for the recordings (Boris Godunov, Rigoletto, Majskaja noch).

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