No recording date
Sergei Lemeshev (1902-1977) was one of the two leading tenors at the Bolshoi Opera in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. The other, Ivan Kozlovsky (1902-1993) was one of the most individual and fascinating artists of this century, and his highly individual performances make for gripping (and for some, infuriating) listening. Lemeshev was not as idiosyncratic a performer as Kosloveky. He possessed a bright, lyric tenor that served him well in a wide variety of operas, including the standard Russian repertoire, as well as French, Italian and German lyric roles (all sung in Russian, of course). Lemeshev was also a strikingly handsome man, who enjoyed great success not only on the Russian opera and concert stage, but in cinema as well.
This well-filled CD from Preiser offers a generous sampling of Lemeshev’s art. While dates are not provided for the recordings, they sound as if they were made in the 1940s. Lemeshev is in fine voice throughout, offering the kind of impassioned and elegant singing that made him such a favorite of Bolshoi audiences. Particularly noteworthy are an eloquent “In fernem land” from Wagner’s Lohengrin, and an impassioned rendition of “Quando le sere al placido” from Verdi’s Luisa Miller. Lenski was Sergei Lemeshev’s signature role, and his melting version of “I love you, Olga” from Eugene Onegin demonstrates why. The “Song of the Indian Guest” from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko brings this recital to a magical close. Sergei Lemeshev was one of the important tenors of this century and this CD offers a welcome retrospective of his art.