Russian Baritone Sergei Leiferkus, born on April 4, 1946, is recognized for his unique vocal quality. If you haven’t heard him before, then you should, because he has one of the most individual sounds you’ll ever hear.
In fact, here’s an excerpt from a role we will talk about in a bit.
In any case, the baritone enjoyed a solid career in the world of Italian and Russian opera, performing all around the world at such houses as the Royal Opera, Vienna State Opera, San Francisco Opera, Salzburg Easter Festival, and Edinburgh Festival, among many other places.
He also had a solid career at the Met Opera, appearing 86 times between 1992 and 2004, singing a select number of operas numerous times. Here’s a look at his Met career in a nutshell.
The first opera the baritone took on at the Met was Tchaikovsky’s seminal masterwork. He only sang the title role at Met on three occasions, all of them during his debut season. Interestingly, Leiferkus was not supposed to make his debut when he did and was simply a cover for Thomas Hampson. But when the American baritone fell ill, the Russian star got a chance to show off his talents and did so, earning the following comment from Martin Mayer of Opera Magazine: “In sound, musical substance, acting, and appearance he was simply an ideal Onegin.”
Next up for Leiferkus was a role he grew associated with, Iago in “Otello.” He performed it for the first time on March 25, 1994, and would go on to sing the role 12 times with the company.
This ranked second among the operas he sang most at the Met, taking on Escamillo 23 times over two seasons. He also took the role on tour with the company, his final Escamillo with the Met coming on June 5, 1997, in Tokyo.
Leiferkus only sang one performance of the role of Carlo Gérard on Oct. 3, 1996. Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Guleghina headlined that cast.
On Dec. 22, 1997, the baritone made his first Met appearance in Mussorgsky’s masterwork. He took on the role of Rangoni, which he would later reprise in 2004 in his last set of performances with the company. His final showcase with the Met came on Valentine’s Day in 2004.
Samson et Dalila
This was the first time the baritone got to open a season, singing alongside Plácido Domingo and Olga Borodina in the famed Saint-Saens opera. He sang the opera 27 times overall, the most for any opera he took on at the Met.
The last opera he added to his Met repertoire, Leiferkus appeared in the Beethoven masterwork as the villainous Don Pizarro six times over the course of his career.