Nikolai Okhotnikov does not need an introduction. For modern theatre-goes and vocalists alike, he is both a role model and a symbol of an epoch. Okhotnikov devoted the greater part of his singing career, more than thirty years, to the Kirov Theatre, whose company he was invited to join in 1971. It was at the Kirov Theatre where he performed his best roles, gained recognition and conquered the hearts of theatre-goers. Today his students sing on the very same stage.
Okhotnikov’s flexible and nuanced basso cantante can be heard on the recording of the Temirkanov era legendary productions – War and Peace and Eugene Onegin. However, his repertoire does not boil down to the exemplary performances as Kutuzov and Gremin (Okhotnikov along with his fellow-performers received a State Prize for the latter role). Okhotnikov’s noble and restrained manner of singing, whose soulful character is manifested through intoning, can be explained by his chamber singing training, which he had undergone before becoming an operatic singer. He was first a soloist with Lenkonsert, then he joined the Maly Opera and Ballet Theatre. At the Maly Theatre, he sang as Old Convict in Katerina Izmailova, Miller in Rusalka, King René in Iolanta, and Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia. At the Kirov Theatre, the singer made his debut as Sobakin in The Tsar’s Bride. Okhotnikov’s signature parts include King Heinrich der Vogler in Lohengrin and Philip II in Don Carlo. However, the singer’s artistic and vocal talent was best showcased through his roles in Russian operas. Susanin, Dosifey, Pimen and Boris Godunov, Konchak, Tokmakov, Kochubey, Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich, Svetozar. A remarkable performer of chamber music pieces, Okhotnikov took part in the recording of a Russian art songs anthology, for which he sang all of Rimsky-Korsakov’s art songs for low voice. He has also chaired the International Rimsky-Korsakov Competition. The singer’s voice can also be heard on the recordings of Russian operas made in the 1990s with Valery Gergiev: Khovanshchina, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, and War and Peace. As a Professor of the Saint Petersburg Conservatoire he shared his vast experience with young generations of vocalists. Among his students were Alexander Morozov, Vladimir Feliauer, Yuri Vlasov, Edem Umerov, Karen Akopov.
Nikolai Okhotnikov, People's Artist of the USSR, died on 16 October 2017 at the age of eighty.