High Notes On This Day

5 Major Career Moments for Bass Nicolai Ghiaurov

Bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, born on Sept. 13, 1929, developed a fantastic resume singing the roles of Verdi and those of Mussorsky.

Born in Velingrad in Southern Bulgaria, his potent voice would become his signature and a fan-favorite for opera lovers the world over.

His career is filled with a number of major moments, but in this piece, we will highlight the essential milestones that led to the development of one of the great artists of the 20th century.

Big Wins

His career got its big break in 1955 when he won a few major prizes. First off was the Grand Prix at the International Vocal Competition in Paris and the First Prize and a gold medal at the Fifth World Youth Festival in Prague.

Opera Debut

The same year that he took home the big prizes, he also made his opera debut in Sofia. The opera? Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.” He took on the famed Don Basilio, a role he would sing throughout his career. Here he is later on in Munich singing the famed “La Calunnia.”

A Life-Changing Faust 

In 1961, Ghiaurov headed to Genoa for a run of “Faust.” He was interpreting his iconic Mephistopheles in Gounod’s famed opera. During those performances, he shared the stage with an Italian soprano, Mirella Freni. The two would not only go on to become frequent collaborators from then onwards but would build a life together as husband and wife starting in 1978. They would live together in Modena until the bass’ death in 2004 at the age of 74.

Don Quichotte

In the late 1970s, Ghiaurov would turn heads as the first bass to record the title role of Massenet’s “Don Quichotte.” While other great artists, including Ferruccio Furlanetto and José van Dam, have since recorded the work to great acclaim, Ghiaurov’s recording remains the benchmark for many.

Final Hurrahs

At the tail-end of his career, at age 71, the bass gave a performance at the 1st Herbert Von Karajan Memorial Concert, performing duets with Freni.

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