Music and Politics – Do They Mesh?

– Stasov

The answer is yes, music and politcs can mesh, but not always in a wonderful way.  The Jewish Ukrainian bass Mark Reizen (1895-1992) had the dicey honor of being one of Stalin’s favorite singers.  This was a questionable and dangerous distinction during Stalin’s deadly antisemitic regime.

Reizen’s rich, deep bass voice (basso profundo) was one of the glories of the Soviet stage.  He retained his magnificent vocal resonance, lyrical tenderness, and eloquent dignity well into old age.

Here is Mark Reizen at the ages of 79 and then 90 singing a song and an aria from Tchaikovsky.  Even at this advanced age, Reizen retained his elegant looks, his beautiful voice, and his dramatic gifts – a reminder to Baby Boomers that old age does not equal decreptitude!

Take a few minutes from the hectic craziness of this world, and marvel at Mark Reizen’s ravishing, inspired singing.

Amidst the Din of the Ball (A.K.Tolstoi) Courtesy of YouTube

Amidst the Din of the Ball
In the midst of the noisy ball,
amid the anxious bustle of life,
I caught sight of you,
your face, an enigma.

Only your eyes gazed sadly.
Your divine voice
Sounded like pipes from afar,
Like the dancing waves of the sea.

Your delicate form entranced me,
and your pensiveness,
your sad yet merry laughter,
has permeated my heart since then.

And in the lonely hours of the night,
when I do lie down to rest,
I see your pensive eyes,
hear your merry laugh…

And wistfully drifting
into mysterious reveries,
I wonder if I love you,
but it seems that I do!

Prince Gremin’s aria from Eugene Onegin (after Pushkin)
Prince Gremin’s aria
Love is no respecter of age,
its transports bless alike
those in the bloom of youth
yet unacquainted with the world
and the grey-headed warrior
tempered by experience!
Onegin, I shan’t disguise the fact
that I love Tatyana to destraction!
My life was slipping drearily away;
she appeared and brightened it
like a ray of sunlight in a stormy sky,
and brought me life and youth, yes, youth and happiness!
Among these sly, poor-spirited,
foolish, pampered children,
these scoundrels both absurd and boring,
dull, fractious arbiters,
among the pious coquettes
and sycophantic slaves,
amid affable, modish hypocrisy
courteous, affectionate infidelities,
amid the icy censure
of cruel-hearted vanity,
amid the vexing vacuity
of calculation, thought and conversation,
she shines like a star
in the night’s darkest hour, in a pure, clear sky,
and to me she always appears
in the radiant,
radiant nimbus of an angel!
Love is no respecter of age, etc.

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