Ildar Abdrazakov is one of a small number of singers blessed with the vocal prowess, artistic eloquence and captivating stage presence required to bring opera’s great bass arias to life. He has also succeeded in securing his place at the top of the operatic tree at an age when most basses are only beginning to mature. The Russian artist, described by the New York Times as “a bass of elegance and unforced resonance”, is in high demand at the world’s leading opera houses and concert halls. His signature repertoire extends from Mozart’s Figaro and the opera buffa roles of Rossini and Donizetti to the strikingly complex characters of Verdi’s Attila, Oberto and Filippo II. “My beginning is always with the composer,” he observes. “I want to sing what the composer wrote. That is first. Everything starts with the score.”
On 10 October 2017 it was announced that Abdrazakov had signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon – a few weeks earlier the yellow label had released Duets, an album of French and Italian operatic excerpts he had recorded with Rolando Villazón. Reviewing Duets, MusicWeb International praised Abdrazakov as “a strong, dark dramatic bass, superb as Mefistofele and Fiesco”.
Ildar Abdrazakov has now made his first solo album for DG – a wide-ranging selection of Verdi arias recorded with the Chœur Métropolitain and the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The album is scheduled for release on 16 August 2019.
Deutsche Grammophon had previously documented two significant landmarks in the bass’s career: he appeared in the yellow label’s Blu-ray and DVD releases of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor with Anna Netrebko (2009) and in the title-role of Borodin’s Prince Igor (2014), both staged at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
Ildar Abdrazakov was born in Ufa, then capital of the Soviet Republic of Bashkiria, today known as the Republic of Bashkortostan. His father, a film and television director, recognised young Ildar’s musical ability and sent him to a local music school. The 14-year-old student received his first singing lessons from M.G. Murtazina, who was already teaching his older brother, and joined her class at the Ufa State Institute of the Arts two years later. “I was blessed with a great teacher and I was eager,” he recalls. “These factors both contributed to the fact that I started my career so young.”
Abdrazakov continued his studies with Professor Murtazina after joining the Bashkirian Opera and Ballet Theatre. He made his debut at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg at the age of 22 and gained invaluable early experience with the company, with whom he toured extensively, attracting international attention in 2000 with his debut performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. His career flourished after he won the Maria Callas International Television Competition later the same year. That victory led to his debut at La Scala, Milan in 2001, as well as to engagements at other prestigious venues. He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004 as Masetto in Don Giovanni and has since become a regular guest there, performing everything from Figaro and Don Giovanni to Escamillo, Attila and Méphistophélès. He appeared in the gala reopening of La Scala in 2004/05, and in 2010 gave his recital debut there with songs by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Liszt, Ravel, among others.
Other career highlights include Don Basilio and Filippo II for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Attila, Figaro, Don Giovanni and the four villains from Les Contes d’Hoffmann for the Mariinsky Theatre; Don Basilio for Paris Opéra and Bavarian State Opera; Méphistophélès (Gounod’s Faust) for Paris Opéra and the Salzburg Festival; Don Giovanni for Vienna State Opera; Mustafà (L’italiana in Algeri) for Vienna State Opera and the Salzburg Festival; Filippo II for the Bolshoi Theatre, in Lima and Turin and in concert at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées; Moses (Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon) for the Salzburg Festival and Marseille Opera; Attila for Opéra de Monte-Carlo; Silva (Verdi’s Ernani) for Rome Opera and the title role of Boito’s Mefistofele for San Francisco Opera.
In addition to his work in the opera house, Ildar Abdrazakov has achieved distinction in the concert hall, his credits including performances at, among others, Carnegie Hall, the Vienna Musikverein, the Tokyo Spring Festival, the BBC Proms and the Salzburg Festival. The live recording of his performance of Verdi’s Requiem with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti, released on the orchestra’s own label, won the 2011 Grammy® Awards for Best Classical Recording and Best Choral Recording.
In 2015 Ildar Abdrazakov became the inaugural Artistic Director of the Elena Obraztsova International Academy of Music in St Petersburg. “For the first time in Russia,” he noted, “we’re not only creating a system of classical and traditional education, we’re also hoping to establish a lasting link between the generations to share experience between young talents and current stage professionals. I feel a great responsibility and am proud to share my life experience with other musicians and singers.” Since then he has also created the Ildar Abdrazakov Foundation to support and promote talented young musicians. In March 2019 the Foundation presented the second edition of the Ildar Abdrazakov International Music Festival, which took place in four Russian cities, including Moscow and the singer’s native city of Ufa, and featured both concerts and masterclasses.
In August 2017, Abdrazakov made an acclaimed role debut as Don Alfonso in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at the Salzburg Festival. He then launched his 2017–18 season at Paris’s Opéra Bastille, appearing as Philippe II in Verdi’s Don Carlos. In November/December he embarked on a seven-concert European tour with Rolando Villazón, featuring repertoire from Duets. Two roles at the Met followed: Figaro in December 2017/January 2018, and Assur in Semiramide in February/March 2018. He played the title role in concert performances of Verdi’s Attila at the Liceu in Barcelona in April 2018 before returning to the Opéra Bastille two months later to make a keenly awaited debut in the title-role of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov.
Highlights of the 2018–19 season included his appearances as Silva in Ernani at La Scala, in what Operawire called “a splendidly nuanced singing and acting performance”; his return to Milan in December to open the La Scala season in the title role of Davide Livermore’s new production of Attila; Leporello in Don Giovanni at the Met, marking the 15th anniversary of his debut there in the same opera (January/February 2019); and performances of Verdi’s Requiem in Baden-Baden with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Riccardo Muti. This memorable season has also seen Abdrazakov win the Abbiati Award for Best Singer, and make his directorial debut, with the Bashkir State Opera and Ballet Theatre’s first ever production of Attila (April/May 2019).
After appearances in the Verdi Requiem at this summer’s Salzburg Festival, he will open the 2019–20 season by appearing as Banquo in Macbeth at the Met. He will then move on from New York to Chicago to star in the title role of Don Giovanni at the city’s Lyric Opera.