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Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Great Chaliapin

Fyodor Chaliapin’s fame is world-wide and unquestioned. Curiously, as sometimes happens in the case of the great names, analysis of the greatness is sometimes scant. A clue, in the case of Chaliapin, is that the one thing everyone agrees upon is that he was a very great actor. A vocal coach, whom I knew many years ago, had seen Chaliapin in Paris in the twenties, and told me that he was the greatest actor he had ever seen, before or since. If you think about it a moment, that is something not too commonly said about opera singers! I think it is truer in the case of the Russians, however, than of almost any other nation. The Russians, at least since the beginning of the 20th century, have tended, following Hellenists, to view the theater as the poetic activity most suited to the restoration of aesthetic life’s unified wholeness, as was the case, it was thought, in ancient Greece. Perhaps as a result of this intellectual prodding, the essential qualities of theatrical drama came to dominate both opera and ballet. Lyricism and great tragic acting come together, for example, in Russian historical operas such as Boris Godunov, in which Chaliapin was simply nonpareil. I have not been able to find a film version of Chaliapin as Boris Godunov, but there is a good recording, and there are good films of other theatrical pieces, so perhaps by putting the two together, we can get an idea. In the famous death scene that follows, there are several things to listen for, one of them a curiosity. At one point, Boris’ son comes forward, and you can hear him singing “padre mio…,” from which I take it that this was a recording made at the Met! Chaliapin’s remarkable exclamatory singing—or simple exclamation—can be heard around 3:00 into the clip, as he says “Ya Tsar!,” (I am the Tsar!) then “Bozhe!” (God!) and finally “Cmyert!” (Death!”) It’s bone-chilling. At the very end, as you hear him falling down on the floor, he says “Bozhe! Prosteetye! Prosteetye! Proste---t-----“ (“God! Forgive me….forgive me, for-give…….”) You can leave the video at 3:20 (He’s dead by then :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EICjuiPJzZI&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Evideospider%2Etv%2FVideos%2FDetail%2F40821147%2Easpx&feature=player_embedded


It does not take great imagination to see what the power of that presentation must have been. We can get a very good idea indeed from the filmed version of the end of Don Quixote. In this clip, Don Quixote, exhausted and out of his mind, having chased phantoms around the land, lost in his reverie of reborn chivalry, is brought home to “begin a new life,” but of course it is to die, his dreams shattered, his books burned, and his despair total. When he begins to talk, and especially when he begins to sing, in this clip, you will need to turn the sound up. The words he says, before he sings, are: “I deceived you, Sancho…there is no island for you.” There are English subtitles, mercifully, because he is singing in English, but very thickly accented. He only sang Russian and French well. Here you can actually see the great tragedian in action (and the line between tragedy and melodrama was almost non-existent in the performing arts at this time):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6NGCpGD_EQ&feature=related


It’s almost unbearable to watch. Can anyone deny that this was a very great tragedian?

As to the voice per se, I can only end by saying that it was a perfect instrument for projecting his acting. He was, in the truest and best sense of the word, a singing actor.

26 comments:

corax said...

> as sometimes happens in the
> case of the great names,
> analysis of the greatness is
> sometimes scant.

this *is* remarkable. is it a case of 'laudatur et alget'? or, do you think, it's a function of the essential ineffability of musical beauty? i am inclined to say it cannot be the latter -- unless we emend to 'apparently essential ineffability' -- because you yourself have done a splendid job, right here, of explaining what's beautiful and powerful in chaliapin's art. thank you, good sir edmund!

Edmund said...

Thank you, my dear friend. Ah, Juvenal...so biting, so harsh.....and so perceptive! Perhaps not left out in the cold as much as placed somewhere in that magic realm beyond the reach of criticism. Largely, I suppose, as you so accurately state, because the would-be critic must try to transmute ineffability into the qualifying and descriptive language of the studio, something that could, I suppose, be called "appraising grace." (Sorry...it's not original, sadly, I wish it were....) It's probably not "beauty" per se that impresses in Chaliapin's case, as much as it is the heart-piercing recognition of the human condition afforded by the talent(s)of a master tragedian. Great art, to quote Akim Volynsky, the outstanding aesthete and ballet critic of early 20th century Russia, "crosses over to the sphere of moral consciousness. It is mystical in its very essence."

It was to this kind of art that Chaliapin lent his vocal talents. It does not seem charitable (or reasonable) to criticize his vocal talent per se (although it is not inconsiderable)because it was clearly the servant of his acting ability. And that was great indeed.

Anonymous said...

The article is great, as usual. I totally agree about theatrical drama dominating Russian ballet and opera. It began form the 19th century, when some great dramatic actors appeared in the Imperial theaters. Chaliapin wrote that they were his “external” teachers, and all he tried to do was to come closer to them in his acting. Then Stanislavsky organized his theater; he always said that his System was “built” on Chaliapin’s acting. There is a quote from Stanislavsky’s article, “The opera singer has to contend not with one, but with three arts at once -- vocal, musical, and theatrical. In this reside both the difficulty and the advantages of his creative work. The problem lies in the varied processes of mastering the three arts, though, this done, the singer has a greater and more variable ability to act upon the audience than do we dramatic actors. These three arts the singer must fuse into one, and direct into a common aim. To me, Chaliapin is an outstanding example of how the three forms of art can be fused. … Synthesis has rarely been achieved by anyone in the arts, particularly in the theatre. Chaliapin is the only example I can think of. My system is taken straight from Chaliapin.” Stanislavsky organized the Operatic Studio, (where Lemeshev worked for a year) to reform opera and to destroy the tradition of “concerts in costumes”, as he called shows of the Bolshoi.

Chaliapin wrote a very interesting biographical book called “The Man and the Mask”, where he described his methods of acting. It was translated in English.

As I understood from Lemeshev’s memoirs, Stanislavsky was a great director and theorist, but not a great teacher. Besides, his System was changed and distorted by his followers, including Lee Strasberg. Stanislavsky himself also changed his system a lot and sometimes came to the conclusions, that were opposite to the previous ones. So only the people who worked with him knew what the system was really like. Chaliapin planned to organize his own theater, but the Revolution destroyed all his plans, which was very sad , because he was a good teacher .

Edmund said...

Thank you, my friend, for a magnificent contribution to the discussion. Your deep knowledge of Russian theater, ballet, opera and art is really impressive. Спасибо за вклад в блоге. :)

JD Hobbes said...

"Moral consciousness" and "mystical in its very essence?" Interesting. And yet I wonder about a person's natural tendencies. Why are some people so good on the stage in portraying characters? Why can some people simply "act" or "perform" and make it all believable? They "live" the role. Is it a heightened sense of empathy? Empathy is seeing the world through another person's eyes. More importantly, researchers have noted that it includes the ability to grasp the physical (bodily) feeling of another. The actor can actually "feel" the pain, as in the case of Stendhal Syndrome (which is a physical reaction to things beautiful). Some people actually sense the inner feeling from the tone of voice. In watching Chaliapin portray Don Quijote, it appears that he feels the disappointment and physical pain of a dying man who believes he has failed. Did Chaliapin's childhood create empathic behavior in him? Or was he just hyper-sensitive to other people, their emotions, and their physical expression of those emotions?

Edmund said...

I once asked a famous South American literary critic, some 40 years ago, how he defined "style." He thought a moment and gave me a one-word answer: "conviction." I never forgot it, and he could not have been more precise. It's all conviction, and that of course is what Stanislavsky and his method was all about. If you, the actor, believe it, so will the audience. It's that simple. Usually, theatrical "skills" do not play a large part in all this, at least theoretically. Olivier disagreed totally. He thought it was all skill. Anything Olivier says must be taken seriously, given the enormity of his reputation. The truth, as always, probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. The melodramatic style of the time gave Chaliapin many devices to lean upon: makeup, the breadth of gesture, and the simple fact that he was acting on a stage, far away from people. Broad gestures on the stage burn down over distance, and seem more natural by the time they arrive at the eye of the viewer. Film is just the opposite. That's what killed broad melodramatic acting. The camera is merciless, and very close up; so much so that film actors generally act with their eyes only. The astonishing thing about Chaliapin is that he could adapt to either. He is very convincing and not overly broad in the Quixote clip. An astonishing accomplishment for the time, and more so from a stage tragedian.

Anonymous said...

Спасибо за вклад в блоге. :)
:) Пожалуйста. I’m just trying to be on the level of your blog. Chaliapin’s childhood was very difficult; he was always beaten by his masters (at the shoemaker’s worksop). He began to sing in the church choir, then worked almost for nothing in provincial theaters, starved and even wanted to commit suicide. Someone advised him to go to the voice teacher Usatov. Usatov decided to give him lessons for free – that’s how Chaliapin’s career began. Mostly his talent allowed him to become such a star.

Edmund said...

You exceed the level, dear lady, simply by virtue of your deep knowledge of the subject. His childhood sounds as rough as Lemeshev's. Those must have been terrible times. The Russo-Japanese war, World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Civil War, the horrors of the 30's and then the Great Patriotic War. Poor Russia. It's hard to imagine a worse century for a nation. But it was very good-hearted of Usatov to teach him for free. He must have heard the gold in the voice, and decided to help Chaliapin. A very decent gesture. Another reader above asked if Chaliapin's childhood had created empathetic behavior in him, and it would seem the answer is that it certainly did. Thank you again for another excellent contribution.

JD Hobbes said...

It has been said that "there are no small roles," but I think there are certainly significant roles that require much more of an actor. Chaliapin was known especially for Don Quijote and Boris Godunov. Those roles deal with tragic figures in the Aristotelian way of thinking. Chaliapin had endured pain and unhappiness, as the writer above notes. Perhaps that created his depth of feeling and allowed his empathy and interpretation to show through. I think the Russian psyche is well adapted to such roles, because the Russians understand the strength and sorrow.

Edmund said...

Yes, good comment. I agree. Some might question Don Quixote as being up there with Boris Godunov in popularity. It may be true in the West, where the film was primarily distributed. It is possible that within Russia itself, other roles, such as Mefistofele, Maid of Pskov, or even Don Carlos, were more popular. He also recorded a great deal of Russian folk music.

Anonymous said...

Usatov not only taught Chaliapin for free, but paid him a small sum of money every month and would invite him for dinner. He also taught him good manners in a very cruel way:) He would tell him something like “Don’t sniff!” in presence of ladies. Chaliapin described it in his first book. The second was mostly about art and the Revolution; both were very well written. Chaliapin’s childhood was much rougher than Lemeshev’s. But Chaliapin became rich and there was a very good period in his life when he was a real star, successfully sang in the West, and was happily married.

Edmund said...

Thank you very much for the additional information. Certainly a fascinating man. Those harsh difficulties in his youth may have given him a lot of emotional material for his famous characterizations later on. Strange how things sometimes work out.

JD Hobbes said...

Some have suggested that genius is a result of some form of emotional illness or terrible distress that drives a person beyond the limits of "normal" people.

Edmund said...

Yes, that is entirely possible. The history of true eccentrics--or the out-and out mad--within the arts is a long and painful one! One thinks of J.W. Booth, leaping onto the stage of Ford's theater, sceaming "Sic Semper Tyrannis," playing the tragedian to the end, or the history of the Barrymore and Drew families. Many insane painters and movie actors. I think, however, that the incidence of insanity among opera singers or ballet dancers is significantly smaller, possibly because the discipline demanded is so great.

Jing said...

I have been checking in from time to time on this fascinating discussion, quite amazed at the level of passion, knowledge and background. As a long-time fan of Chaliapin's, I have little at all to add, except perhaps the brief anecdote of the Manhattan dowager who asked Chaliapin (while singing at the Met) to perform a recital for the Ladies Club at 11:00 am the following week. His reply: "Madam, I do not spit before noon!" So he did retain some of his rough edges.

It would be interesting to widen the range, at some point in the future, to other "singing actors." Callas, of course, comes immediately to mind. And, I think she has said a great deal about this over the years. (She has been quoted, I recall, as saying that great opera stars are simply "born" and that's it.)

If we range beyond opera, American musical theatre, provides other examples of Stanislavky's thoughts about acting, music, and theatre. (Musical comedy as Vaudville meets Viennese Operetta - at least in the beginning) I recently thoroughly enjoyed watching a PBS program in the American Masters Series, this one on the career of Jerome Robbins. Wow, what a breadth of talent he embodied. The program mentioned his relationship with Ethel Merman and his direction of her in Gypsy. I think he was quoted (I could be getting this wrong), that she was the greatest singing actress he had ever worked with. Certainly her triumphal number as Gypsy Rose Lee's mother is still spine-tingling, for me at least. Certainly singing and acting with conviction...And, come to think of it, West Side Story combines acting, singing, dancing and theatre. (Although, as anyone who has ever been in a production of that show knows, not very people are able to sing, dance, and act with equal skill)

Edmund said...

Yes, indeed! Wonderful contribution. Like you, I don't really draw any firm lines between opera and musical comedy, modern dance and ballet. There are just degrees of stylistic difference. And I totally agree with your enthusiasm about Ethel Merman. In fact, I got one of my first lessons in professionalism from her. I was on tour once, and the show preceeding ours was a one-woman show, featuring Ethel Merman. She was near the end of the run, and the show was playing in an outdoor theater in the round. There was a very small audience that night--perhaps 75 to 100 people, clustered in one small section--one small slice of the pie, as it were--and she stood there for one solid hour, orchestra behind her, singing her heart out to that tiny group of people. She could have been singing for thousands (and often did) and it would not have been one bit different. Now that's a pro! I have had the misfortune, as you no doubt also have, of seeing well known entertainers playing down mercilessly to "small town hicks" when they are on tour. Not the great Merman!

Jing said...

Quite amazing, Edmund. Talk about seven degrees of separation. My mother and father, on their only trip to New York City, saw her in "Annie Get your Gun" - They couldn't get over the fact that, though they were in the very last row of the balcony, they could hear every note she sang and word she spoke, and felt she was playing right to them.

JD Hobbes said...

I had the pleasure of seeing Richard Tucker and Andrea Bocelli, separately, and both of them delivered very solid performances, according to their abilities and reputations, in smaller towns (Knoxville, Tennessee and Columbus, Ohio). Tina Turner also delivered a high-energy performance as one might expect. Bill Cosby (in Milwaukee) was terrific. On the other hand I have seen comedians, such as Jerry Seinfeld, who wanted to try out new material on the small town audience, and the result was not good. Then I have walked out at intermission on those like Ray Charles and Lena Horne, who were very obviously unhappy with the turnout and made it known.

Edmund said...

Most interesting! Yes, the way an artist reacts to a small audience can say more about them than the way they perform before huge audiences, in the same one can tell something important about a person by watching how they deal with their inferiors.

Anonymous said...

Another weird question from Boris: do you think that Feodor Chaliapin and Bing Crosby sounded alike?

Edmund St. Austell said...

I'm afraid I can't quite see that one, because Chaliapin's voice was so dramatic, the voice of a real singing actor, one of the best, and Crosby was a crooner. Smoothness, as opposed to drama, was the essential characteristic of that voice.

01bvg said...

This is Boris once again. I have some good news to tell you about new music in my collection!
When I was a small child living back in USSR, we had a very old phonograph record player and seeveral dozen 78 rpm records. The records belonged to my Great-Grandma. She died when I was about 5 years old, but I remember very well how she used to play the 78 rpm records on the old phonograph. Those 78 rpm records were mostly of Feodor Chaliapin, Alexander Vertinsky, and Antonina Nezhdanova. There was one Leonid Sobinov record and there was another record of Vadim Kozin singing a gypsy camp song. There was also a recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee". Most of these records were shellac and they were made between 1905 and 1930.
We left Russia about 20 years ago, and we did not take those 78 rpm records with us. Yesterday, I found out the there is a music store that sells vintage records on Cedar avenue in Minneapolis. I live in West Saint Paul, so this music store is right across Mississippi river from me. So, I drove there, I came into the store, and I saw endless shelves with neatly stacked records in very beautiful album covers. They were exclusively 78 rpm records.
I looked around. There was a lot of classical music, especially Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. Probably there were about 30 or 40 or possibly 50 records containing the works of each of the above composers. Also, I noticed a large collection of Rachmaninoff records, and most of these records probably had Rachmaninoff playing his own music on the piano. There was some Chopin, but not as much as Handel or Beethoven. Handel must have been really popular in US in early 20th century. There was an immense collection of Bing Crosby.
The excitement overfilled my head. I screamed literally at the top of my lungs: "Where are Rosenblatt and Chaliapin?!"
The store owner came out. He said that the store had some Rosenblatt, but he was completely sold out 20 years ago. Instead, the owner pointed out several records by Jan Peerce and richard Tucker. I immediately bought the Tucker 78 rpm record with "Eli, Eli" and "Kol Nidre." then, the store owner proceeded to show me his Feodor Chaliapin 78 rpm collection. I bought two records: one had "The Song of the Volga Boatmen" and "The Song of the Flea", the other had "Aria of the Viking Guest" and "In Questa Tomba Oscura." I asked the owner if there were records of Leonid Sobinov, Antonina Nezhdanova, and Alexander Vertinsky. The owner replied that there were none, because none of these singers recorded in the US, but Chaliapin did record in the US.
Then, the most important treat of the day came with a record of Marian Anderson. The record consisted of "My Mother Bid Me Bind My Hair" (music by Haydn) and "She Never Told Me Her Love" (poetry by Shakespeare). Not only have I never heard these songs, but I have never even heard the such names of songs. I immediately bought the record. I would have bought some Handel, but I had already spent 30 dollars on the purchase of just these four records.
As the last comment, I would like to write that most the 78 rpm records were released by RCA Victor. All of the classical music that I saw in that store was released by RCA Victor, as well as all of the opera singers. There was only a couple of Bing Crosby records there were from Columbia and Decca.
My Dad bought me a record player several months ago. Now, I am waiting just to hear those records.

01bvg said...

When I was a small child living back in USSR, we had a very old phonograph record player and seeveral dozen 78 rpm records. The records belonged to my Great-Grandma. She died when I was about 5 years old, but I remember very well how she used to play the 78 rpm records on the old phonograph. Those 78 rpm records were mostly of Feodor Chaliapin, Alexander Vertinsky, and Antonina Nezhdanova. There was one Leonid Sobinov record and there was another record of Vadim Kozin singing a gypsy camp song. There was also a recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee".
We left Russia about 20 years ago, and we did not take those 78 rpm records with us. Yesterday, I found out the there is a music store that sells vintage records on Cedar avenue in Minneapolis. I live in West Saint Paul, so this music store is right across Mississippi river from me. So, I drove there, I came into the store, and I saw endless shelves with neatly stacked records in very beautiful album covers.
I looked around. There was a lot of classical music, especially Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. Probably there were about 30 or 40 or possibly 50 records containing the works of each of the above composers. Also, I noticed a large collection of Rachmaninoff records, and most of these records probably had Rachmaninoff playing his own music on the piano. There was some Chopin, but not as much as Handel or Beethoven. Handel must have been really popular in US in early 20th century. there was also a lot of early jazz from early 1920s. There was probably about 20 to 30 records of Paul Whiteman, who was probably a popular jazz bandleader in early 1920s, but now totally forgotten. There was an immense collection of Bing Crosby. I cannot even estimate how many records of Bing Crosby there had been. If I had to make an inference, then I would have easily concluded that of all recording artists of 78 rpm era, Bing Crosby made the most records. In Russia, Feodor Chaliapin was the most prominent recording artist of the 78 rpm era. So, I was comparing Crosby and Chaliapin to each other not without reason.
The excitement overfilled my head. I screamed literally at the top of my lungs: "Where are Rosenblatt and Chaliapin?!"
The store owner came out. He said that the store had some Rosenblatt, but he was completely sold out 20 years ago. Instead, the owner pointed out several records by Jan Peerce and richard Tucker. I immediately bought the Tucker 78 rpm record with "Eli, Eli" and "Kol Nidre." then, the store owner proceeded to show me his Feodor Chaliapin 78 rpm collection. I bought two records: one had "The Song of the Volga Boatmen" and "The Song of the Flea", the other had "Aria of the Viking Guest" and "In Questa Tomba Oscura." I asked the owner if there were records of Leonid Sobinov, Antonina Nezhdanova, and Alexander Vertinsky. The owner replied that there were none, because none of these singers recorded in the US, but Chaliapin did record in the US.
Then, the most important treat of the day came with a record of Marian Anderson. The record consisted of "My Mother Bid Me Bind My Hair" (music by Haydn) and "She Never Told Me Her Love" (poetry by Shakespeare). Not only have I never heard these songs, but I have never even heard the such names of songs. I immediately bought the record. I would have bought some Handel, but I had already spent 30 dollars on the purchase of just these four records.
As the last comment, I would like to write that most the 78 rpm records were released by RCA Victor. All of the classical music that I saw in that store was released by RCA Victor, as well as all of the opera singers. There was only a couple of Bing Crosby records there were from Columbia and Decca.
My Dad bought me a record player several months ago. Now, I am waiting just to hear those records.

01bvg said...

This is Boris once again. I have some good news to tell you about new music in my collection!
When I was a small child living back in USSR, we had a very old phonograph record player and seeveral dozen 78 rpm records. The records belonged to my Great-Grandma. She died when I was about 5 years old, but I remember very well how she used to play the 78 rpm records on the old phonograph. Those 78 rpm records were mostly of Feodor Chaliapin, Alexander Vertinsky, and Antonina Nezhdanova. There was one Leonid Sobinov record and there was another record of Vadim Kozin singing a gypsy camp song. There was also a recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee". Most of these records were shellac and they were made between 1905 and 1930.
We left Russia about 20 years ago, and we did not take those 78 rpm records with us. Yesterday, I found out the there is a music store that sells vintage records on Cedar avenue in Minneapolis. I live in West Saint Paul, so this music store is right across Mississippi river from me. So, I drove there, I came into the store, and I saw endless shelves with neatly stacked records in very beautiful album covers.
I looked around. There was a lot of classical music, especially Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. Probably there were about 30 or 40 or possibly 50 records containing the works of each of the above composers. Also, I noticed a large collection of Rachmaninoff records, and most of these records probably had Rachmaninoff playing his own music on the piano. There was some Chopin, but not as much as Handel or Beethoven. Handel must have been really popular in US in early 20th century. there was also a lot of early jazz from early 1920s. There was an immense collection of Bing Crosby.
The excitement overfilled my head. I screamed literally at the top of my lungs: "Where are Rosenblatt and Chaliapin?!"
The store owner came out. He said that the store had some Rosenblatt, but he was completely sold out 20 years ago. Instead, the owner pointed out several records by Jan Peerce and richard Tucker. I immediately bought the Tucker 78 rpm record with "Eli, Eli" and "Kol Nidre." then, the store owner proceeded to show me his Feodor Chaliapin 78 rpm collection. I bought two records: one had "The Song of the Volga Boatmen" and "The Song of the Flea", the other had "Aria of the Viking Guest" and "In Questa Tomba Oscura." I asked the owner if there were records of Leonid Sobinov, Antonina Nezhdanova, and Alexander Vertinsky. The owner replied that there were none, because none of these singers recorded in the US, but Chaliapin did record in the US.
Then, the most important treat of the day came with a record of Marian Anderson. The record consisted of "My Mother Bid Me Bind My Hair" (music by Haydn) and "She Never Told Me Her Love" (poetry by Shakespeare). Not only have I never heard these songs, but I have never even heard the such names of songs. I immediately bought the record. I would have bought some Handel, but I had already spent 30 dollars on the purchase of just these four records.
As the last comment, I would like to write that most the 78 rpm records were released by RCA Victor. All of the classical music that I saw in that store was released by RCA Victor.
My Dad bought me a record player several months ago. Now, I am waiting just to hear those records.

Edmund St. Austell said...

Happy Listening!

01bvg said...

My goodness... my story about my trip to the record store was posted three times. I really appologize about that, because I probably posted it three times by accident.
I would just like to make one more comment about 78 rpm records. I would safely state that over 95% of 78 rpm records that I saw in the store were released by RCA Victor. I only saw several Bing Crosby records from Columbia and Decca. So, was RCA Victor the dominant record releasing company in US?
Most of the records that my Great-Grandma had were from the pre-revolutionary times (before the Russian revolution of 1917). For some reason, the most dominant record releasing company in Russia was Columbia. RCA Victor did not get into the pre-revolutionary Russia. There were many records of Sobinov and Nezhdanova recorded for Columbia. Also, I forgot to mention the female singer Varya Panina (1872-1918). She was a cabaret/gypsy style singer. Have you heard of her?
Nevertheless, the most prominent singer in Russia that released the greatest number of 78 rpms was Chaliapin. In US, it seems like Bing Crosby was the most prominent 78 rpm recording artist.
After the Russian revolution, there were very few 78 rpm records made in USSR. For several decades, the most widespread sourse of music for Russians was the radio. Mark Reizen and Nadezhda Obukhova recorded very few 78 rpm records, but they were heard extremely often on the radio.
In about 1948, record making and record releasing came back to Russia, now in the form of a 45 rpm record. These records were advertised as "long-play records", but in reality only two songs could fit on each side. Mark Reizen was the first Russian singer to release a 45 rpm. In about 1954, real long play 33 1/3 rpm records appeared in Russia, but for some reason, they were rare and outnumbered by 45 rpms until around 1970. From 1970 until after the fall of USSR, the 33 1/3 rpm record was dominant.
I was born in mid-1980s and during all of my early life, I remember that 33 1/3 records were the main source of music. In Russia of late 1980s, very few people could afford casette tape recorders, let alone CD players. Most of my friends from high school in Saint Paul, MN, had never seen a 33 1/3 rpm record. When I was in high school, I told my classmates about the turntable and about listening to records, their reply was: "We only remember CDs."