Pavel Lisistian, famed bass-baritone in Russia, is the last living Russian singer who performed with Ivan Jadan at the Bolshoi Theater. This letter from Lisistian, written in 1995 after he learned of Ivan's death, came to me in July, 1997, delivered in person by Pavel's son, Gerasim, now living in New York. How did he know about me? The entire Lisistian family have long been friends of Ivan's son, Vladik, and Vladik's wife, Jannetta, all of whom live in Moscow. One daughter in the Lisistian family is herself a decorated singer.
The famous father, not well know in the U.S., was born in Armenia in 1911. Here is what this great artist wanted me to know about his experiences with Ivan Jadan. The translation below I made, with assistance from Gerasim, who helped us greatly by using his Russian-English computer dictionary. What I translated was further reviewed by Russian pianist, Luba Schmulovich, who visited me recently here on St. John, as a guest of the Ivan Jadan Museum.
Pavel Lisistian writes:
"In 1993 I came to Sochi Philharmonic Society for first time, a place where concerts were performed. There I saw a notice in the Caucasian Riviera section of Sochi, which advertised a concert by Ivan Jadan. (Sochi is a resort town on the Black Sea.)
"As a person interested in concerts by popular salon and operatic performers, I was eager to purchase a ticket for this Jadan concert. I myself was, at the time, a soloist with the Youth Opera Theater in Leningrad where I sang minor roles.
"When I first heard Jadan sing, I was astounded. I heard the freedom, the fluidity of his singing and the incredible beauty of his voice.
"Up to now (1995, when this testimony was written), I remember the way he sang Werther, especially that final note. It seemed as though Jadan's last note had escaped from the concert hall, yet was still there, dissolving in air.
"That is the way Jadan´s voice is still here with us today," Gerasim told me in July, 1997, as he helped me to translate his father's vivid description of the way Ivan Jadan sings. The aria noted here is from Masenet's opera, Sorrows of the Young Werther, based on Goethe's great poem. The aria is included on Jadan's CD recording. St. John friends can come up anytime to hear what Lisistian is talking about! He continues his letter by writing, "The aria of Ashug (ahSHOOG) from the opera Almast he sang with God-given race. (I have photos of Ivan as Ashug included in the History of the Bolshoi Theater.) "After the concert, Jadan agreed to hear me sing, and he encouraged me to continue my career."
"In 1939, there was great success in the Soviet Union in celebration of Armenian culture," (Lisistian, like Vladik's wife, Jannetta, is Armenian) and in 1939, I started my career at the Bolshoi Theater as soloist. The first opera in which I sang was Eugen Onegin, singing the part of Onegin." (Eugen Onegin, by Tschaikowsky, is based on Pushkin's great narrative poem).
"My first Lenski (Lenski is the tenor role in this opera) was Jadan, the man I had heard at Sochi, the same man who had entranced me at Sochi in 1933. He was a superb operatic partner, a magical human being." (Lisistian here uses the word Chood-nee, a favorite word of Ivan's that he used to describe the magical beauty of nature on St. John.)
Lisistian concludes his moving account of Ivan Jadan by writing, "Everyone loved him very much. After the performance he praised me and that was a prize!"
From Vladik, his father's archivist for over 30 years, I have the excellent photos you see here of Pavel Lisistian as Eugen Onegin and Ivan Jadan as Lenski, now on display at the Ivan Jadan Museum, where you can hear on Ivan's CD how he sings Lenski's famous aria from Eugen Onegin, as well as Werther's aria.