A book from Joseph Darsky, the American researcher who studies the work of the great Russian opera singer Fedor Shalyapin, will be released in the U.S. just before the Christmas season. The title of the book is “Sex and the Singer: Women in Fedor Ivanovich Shalyapin’s Life.”
Darsky does not relish the intimate details of the famous bass singer’s personal life; on the contrary, he debunks the publications on Shalyapin’s supposedly amoral lifestyle, which have become increasingly commonplace as of late.
The author of the monumental, 170-page work (supplemented by 40 unique documentary photographs) said in an interview with ITAR-TASS that, “These fabrications in no way correspond with reality; they tarnish the good name of the greatest soloist of the Metropolitan Opera, Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres, and inflict serious damage to world culture.”
The book verifies that Shalyapin’s contemporaries never doubted the singer’s high moral reputation. The book also discusses Shalyapin’s family tree. “His relatives are scattered all over the world, except Russia,” says Darsky. “The majority of them live in the U.S., the U.K. and Italy.”
In the U.S., the book has a chance of becoming one of the best non-fiction literary works produced in 2013.
Fedor Shalyapin had only one officially registered marriage — to Italian ballerina Iola Tornagi (Iola Ignatyevna LePresti). However, starting in 1910, Shalyapin lived with two families; his second common-law wife was Maria Petzold.
The singer became engaged to Iola Tornagi in 1898. Two years prior, the ballerina had been part of the Lyon Theatre’s troupe that arrived in Nizhny Novgorod at the invitation of the great patron of arts, Savva Mamontov. It was there that she met the 23-year-old Shalyapin, who fell so deeply in love with the 22-year-old dancer that he confessed his love on stage.
During a dress rehearsal of “Eugene Onegin,” in the aria “All Men Surrender to Love’s Power,” instead of the line, “Onegin, I won’t hide it: I am madly in love with Tatyana!” Shalyapin sang, “Onegin, upon my soul, I am madly in love with Tornagi…” Shalyapin had five children from this marriage.
However, in 1906, Shalyapin found a new love in Maria Petzold, a widow and owner of the Eduard Petzold breweries. She managed to captivate the singer, who left his family without divorcing. In 1910, they had their first child together (Maria had two children from her first marriage). Altogether, Fedor Shalyapin and Maria Petzold had three daughters.
Shalyapin was torn between two women — one lived in Moscow, and the other in St. Petersburg. This continued until Shalyapin decided to leave Russia. He emigrated with his new family, but he always kept in touch with his first wife and children.
The children he had with Iola eventually moved to Europe, but Iola Tornagi stayed in Russia until 1950, when, at the request of her son, she moved to Italy, where she later died.
First published in Russian in NewsRu.com.
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