The most Russian Fedor: what the series “Chaliapin” told about


At the beginning of the last century, there was an anecdote about Chaliapin: “There are three miracles in the Mother See: the Tsar Cannon, the Tsar Bell and the Tsar Bass.” Fedor Ivanovich confirmed this national title with his whole life, full of grandiose accomplishments and tragic losses. Monographs were written about him, documentaries were shot, but he was honored with a biography in feature films only now. On February 13, on the 150th anniversary of the birth of the singer, an eight-episode biopic dedicated to Chaliapin will start on the Rossiya channel and in the Okko online cinema. Having familiarized himself with him in advance, Izvestia found out how the great artist is seen by the descendants.

Folk and dot

In the 1900s, Chaliapin was a popular idol. Stately, blue-eyed, fair-haired, living unrestrainedly and widely, he personified the concept of “Russian people”. The audience burst into his performances and concerts. When drawing up an agreement with the Mariinsky Theater, the singer demanded that an attendant with a Berdanka be assigned to him. Like, tired of changing shirts – fans are tearing for souvenirs.

It is no wonder that the “popularity” plot takes pride of place in the film. Fans besiege Chaliapin’s house on Novinsky Boulevard. An enterprising music lover makes his way there under the guise of a doctor and, being expelled in disgrace, does not grumble, but rejoices: he saw Chaliapin face to face.

Fyodor Lavrov as Chaliapin’s secretary Isai Dvorshchina in the series “Chaliapin”

Photo: TV channel “Russia”

The apogee of people’s love becomes a journey through the St. Petersburg roofs. The singer and accompanying persons can get to the Cinizelli circus for their own concert only from the top – the streets are crowded with people. Chaliapin’s secretary, Isai Dvorshchin (Fyodor Lavrov), slides dangerously down an incline, and the artist saves him. A hero is a hero everywhere.


Around the star of Chaliapin, a whole constellation of iconic people of Russian culture is burning: Vsevolzhsky, Mamontov, Telyakovsky, Lentovsky, Vrubel, Serov, Kachalov, Rachmaninov … It could not have been otherwise in this film. The peak of the singer’s operatic glory fell on the incredible rise of Russian art. And Korovin, Gorky and Dalsky were his friends.

Relationships between celebrities are shown to be zealous but respectful. Admiration for each other is shown regardless of political and aesthetic preferences. For professional disputes, conversations, an atmospheric picture is built.

Roman Madyanov as Mikhail Lentovsky in the series “Chaliapin”

Photo: TV channel “Russia”

Here is Korovin with Chaliapin in the workshops of the Bolshoi Theater. The story is staged about how Korovin made an arch for Chaliapin, Ivan the Terrible, below his height – 195 cm. So that he entered it, crouching, and thereby emphasized his scale.

But friends on the hunt shoot woodcocks in the winter forest. Maxim Gorky in a hat (Vladimir Ladiev), surprisingly similar to the captain Nikita Mikhalkov in the film “Among Strangers…”, follows the company through deep snow. On the face of suffering: “How can you kill a living thing?”

Singer and power

Chaliapin is indifferent to birds. The loss of life on Bloody Sunday infuriates him. The gallery of the Bolshoi Theater demands the Marseillaise, and the artist in the costume and make-up of Mephistopheles sings it. Scandal. Ladies and gentlemen hastily leave the stalls. Chaliapin is threatened with dismissal.

Here, the most relevant conversation of the director of the Imperial Theaters Telyakovsky (Oleg Almazov) with a superior chief takes place. The meaning is something like this.

Shot from the series “Chaliapin”

Photo: TV channel “Russia”

“Fire Chaliapin,” says the boss. “Why make a martyr out of him,” Telyakovsky objects. He is an artist, not a revolutionary. He needs to work. It’ll get worse and stop.”

Indeed, Chaliapin takes the next risky steps with an eye to circumstances, and for the most part avoids them, which, by the way, he writes about in his book.

For whom the artist – for the king or for the people – remains a question. Chaliapin – for art.

His women

Without much worries (it so happened, what can you do) Chaliapin lives in two families. With his first wife, Italian Iola Tornaghi, he had an industrial affair. When he was in the Mamontov troupe, she served as a dancer there.

Maria Smolnikova as Iola is the highlight of the film. A miniature woman with an unbending ballet back delicately but persistently defends her family happiness.

Maria Smolnikova as Iola Tornaga in the TV series “Chaliapin”

Photo: TV channel “Russia”

Tenderness for her husband does not prevent her from being pragmatic. Fedya has fallen apart and wants to cancel the performance? Call the doctor, but don’t call the theater. In the evening, he recovers and performs.

Her husband, in a fit of tenderness, sings “On the Ocean of the Air” into the telephone receiver and a minute later leaves for St. Petersburg with a new passion, the dazzling secular lady Maria Petzold (Yulia Snigir).

Yulia Snigir as Maria Petzold in the series “Chaliapin”

Photo: TV channel “Russia”

In surprises for loved ones, he is inexhaustible. With Iola goes to the open air. “To love you? It’s easy!” – he booms from the height of his gigantic growth, beautifully reflected in the water surface. With Maria, she goes to Palace Square, where fireworks immediately begin. “Only you could think of it,” the companion whispers.

apple from apple tree

In life and career, Chaliapin has to be a diplomat, although his father’s character is quick-tempered and intolerant. But the father (Fyodor Dobronravov) lives as he breathes. He drank the house given to him by his son, but continues to teach Fedka the mind: “Why is your face sour in the morning?”

Alexander Gorbatov as Fyodor Chaliapin in the series “Chaliapin”

Photo: TV channel “Russia”

He is surprised at the success of his son: “We all sing, but so that they still pay for it!” – but on the whole he is proud: “Wow, he wrapped himself in a sheet, his throat is tearing, and dignitaries and generals are around.” Chaliapin Jr. grows gloomy and endures.

Hints slip through the common son-father pain – the memory of the departed mother and wife, but she cannot unite the people who were once close. They are terribly far apart. Maybe because the hints are too subtle.

Abdrazakov in Chaliapin style

Chaliapin sings in the voice of Ildar Abdrazakov. The execution is perfect. You can listen. In addition, Ildar partly directed his scenes himself.

As the director of the film, Yegor Anashkin, said, the singer, after watching the final cut, decided to re-sing some of the arias. “Look,” he said, “here Chaliapin begins to sing in a more thoughtful, calm state than expected, therefore I also need to sing quieter, more intimately.”

Shot from the series “Chaliapin”

Photo: TV channel “Russia”

It’s Chaliapin. It is known that if Fedor Ivanovich did not like something, he worked for his colleagues: he conducted, composed the make-up, and reinstalled the scenery.

Another thing is that on-screen and off-screen Chaliapin is not perceived by one character. Apparently, they did not find a casting director who could both play and sing. We have to switch from the film to the concert. Moreover, the film is inferior to the concert.

Alexander Gorbatov, who plays Chaliapin, is a textured and professional artist. But, looking at him, you remember the phrase from the film “A Simple Story”, said by the heroine of Nonna Mordyukova to the hero of Mikhail Ulyanov: “You are a good man, Andrei Yegorych, but not an eagle!” And Chaliapin was certainly an eagle.

What’s next

The history of the people’s artist in the film covers almost three decades – from childhood and youth, when he studied to be a shoemaker and sang in the church choir, before leaving for a foreign tour in 1922, from where he never returned to Russia.

Numerous vicissitudes of the last 16 years of his life remained uncovered. It’s time for a second season. The team of director Anashkin (screenwriters – Timur Uzugbaya and Natalya Nazarova, production designer – Alexander Zagoskin, costume designer – Natalya Saltykova) coped with the first one.

Shot from the series “Chaliapin”

Photo: Rossiya TV channel

For the next season, Fedor Ivanovich created a good start in the form of his second and last book. If about the first – “Pages of Life” – it was still rumored that Maxim Gorky was its true author, then the second – “Mask and Soul” – Chaliapin wrote for sure himself: Gorky was not next to him in exile.

“In Pages of Life, written many years ago in Russia, I gave a complete sketch of my childhood, but only very briefly and incompletely covered my artistic career. In this book, I am trying to give a complete outline of my life to this day … The first book is, therefore, an external and incomplete biography of my life, while this one strives to be an analytical biography of my soul and my art, ”said Chaliapin in the preface to The Mask and soul.”

An analytical biography is what is needed today. The country must know its heroes.


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