Libraries land new film, arts, and human-rights collection

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Fathers and Sons

Fyodor Chaliapin was one of the great opera singers of the 20th century, a Russian basso profundo whose powerful, emotional voice complemented his novel, naturalistic acting style. At the Met, in 1907, he portrayed Basilio in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville as “a vulgar, unctuous, greasy-looking priest who picked his nose, wiped it on his cassock, and kept spitting all over the stage,” wrote critic Harold C. Schonberg. “This was realism with a vengeance, and Chaliapin was taken apart.”

The family papers of Fyodor Chaliapin and his son Boris, a gift of the estate of Boris’s wife Helcia, are fi lled with evidence of Fyodor’s huge personality. There are photographs of him in elaborate stage costumes, bearing ferocious expressions; correspondence and clippings from his 1933 voyage to Hollywood to make Adventures of Don Quixote, his only film; and personally inscribed photos from Toscanini, Puccini, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tolstoy, and Chekhov.

Boris, an artist, never achieved his father’s fame, but his portraits were seen by millions on Time magazine covers published between 1942 and 1970 — a total of about 400 images commissioned for $2000 apiece. The Chaliapin papers include a notebook of Boris’s exquisite charcoal nudes, portraits of prominent Russian ballet dancers, and an envelope of original costume designs.

The collection will be incorporated into the Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European Culture, the second-largest repository of Russian émigré materials in the U.S.

 

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