PopKultur shares about Russian singer Nikolai Baskov.

Nikolai Baskov is a prominent Russian tenor known for his opera and pop music stylings. According to his website, Baskov is also the only cross-over artist in Russia, shifting from opera music to pop.

He first gained renown in the late 1990s through singing competitions in Russia and abroad. He joined the Bolshoi Theater musical ensemble in 1998 as an opera singer, performing major roles  in the Bolshoi’s productions. He is best known for his performances in Evgeni Onegin, Prince Igor, Boris Godunov, and more. Baskov met Spain’s Montserrat Caballe during his tenure at the Bolshoi, deemed the greatest soprano of the 20th century. Caballe took Baskov under her wing, and the pair travelled together across Europe performing at the world’s greatest venues in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and elsewhere. While Baskov  and Caballe were stage partners, Baskov’s skill flourished and expanded under Caballe’s guidance.

Baskov made his pop recording debut in 2000 with his album Dedication, which earned him fame  in Russia. Using the skills he learned from Caballe during his European tour, he graduated from Gnessin Russian Academy of Music in 2001. He went on to pursue pop music performances, mixing operatic arias with the flashy productions typical of  pop concerts. His personality, charm, and performances have captivated viewers and famous performers across Russia, Europe and Asia.

Critics commended Baskov for his vocal skill, but criticized his mixture of pop and opera music. The publication Argumenti i Fakti noted with regard to Baskov’s musical performance, “…the heartbreaking pop songs of the languorous boy are one thing; Tchaikovsky and the specifics of opera a different story altogether”. They described his stylistic rendition of Lensky as too “vulgar” for the opera; as Russian Life reports, Baskov later commented in response that “ignoring show[manship] or theatrical singing is not interesting.

Baskov’s voice in Dedication is rich and almost heavenly. The album is available via Spotify and Apple Music, and his CDs and vinyls can be purchased on Amazon. His music demonstrates that his training at the Moscow State Conservatory was fruitful, and that his title of Golden Voice of Russia is  well earned. The combination of opera and pop on the album is a bit jarring, for example on his track “The Mystery.” The bubblegum pop beats are unexpected, though they fo fit the opera music well, in an odd way — Baskov pulls off the combination through his melodious execution of the song. The music is, thus, best described as odd, and its success demands both technical skill and artistic vision — both of which Baskov possesses.

Baskov’s pop fame culminated in the meteoric success of Dedication, which resulted in his epic 2012 performance in Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium. Twelve years after the debut of Dedication, the singer found support among his fans with more than 10,000 concertgoers. The concert was aired on PBS, and shortly after Baskov found himself performing in the United States.

Why did Baskov cross over from opera to pop in the first place? And what is the explanation for his immense success?As Baskov himself puts it, “I absorb all music because it’s very interesting — popular and classical and also rock…I am like a sponge.” Baskov’s crossover is the result of his interest in the many genres of musical expression and of his finding his particular niche in the intersection between opera and and pop music.   This crossover is precisely what draws so many fans across Russia and the world.

Baskov has continued to ride the wave of his popularity with a 2017 tour of the Baltic states and Russia and will visit  Uzbekistan and Belarus in 2018.

Eleven years after Baskov’s first album release, the singer found dedicated support among his fans in the Luzhniki Stadium, singing for roughly 10,000 concert goers. On June 6th, 2018 Baskov released a song with Alexander Buynov and Valeriya (Alla Perfilova) titled “Strana za nami, i mi pobedim,” translating to “The country is behind us, and we will win,” geared towards the 2018 FIFA World Cup being held in Russia. The song calls for support for the Russian team, mentioning the fact that the country stands behind the team in their inevitable win in the world cup.

Below are the lyrics for Baskov’s hit 2016 song «Я Подарю Тебе Любовь»

(Russian)

Звезды светят не случайно, где-то есть моя
Я ищу источник счастья, сердцем горя
На окраине вселенной среди двух миров
Я найду счастливый вечер, встречу любовь

Я подарю тебе любовь
И море сказочных цветов
Мне нужен твой счастливый взгляд
Нужно многое сказать
Я подарю тебе любовь
Дожди весенних городов
Мне нужен твой счастливый взгляд
Нужно многое сказать
Я подарю тебе любовь

Годы время подгоняют и любовь зовут
Люди ходят где-то рядом, ищут свой путь
Я держу в руках удачу и свою судьбу
Мои чувства бесконечны, я тебя жду

Я подарю тебе любовь
И море сказочных цветов
Мне нужен твой счастливый взгляд
Нужно многое сказать
Я подарю тебе любовь
Дожди весенних городов
Мне нужен твой счастливый взгляд
Нужно многое сказать
Я подарю тебе любовь

 

(English)

Stars don’t shine accidentally,
Somewhere there is mine
I’m looking for a source of happiness, the heart of grief
On the outskirts of the universe among the two worlds
I’ll find a happy evening, meet love

I will give you love
And the sea of ​​fabulous flowers
I need your happy gaze
There is much to say
I will give you love
Rains of spring cities
I need your happy gaze
There is much to say
I will give you love

Years, time is driven and love is called
People walk around, looking for their way
I have luck in my hands and my destiny
My feelings are infinite,
I’m waiting for you

I will give you love
And the sea of ​​fabulous flowers
I need your happy gaze
There is much to say
I will give you love
Rains of spring cities
I need your happy gaze
There is much to say
I will give you love

Read more about Russian music here. 

Lucine Poturyan is an Armenian-American student double-majoring in Government and Russian, East European, Eurasian Studies (REES) at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She is currently studying the role of cultural diplomacy in international politics through SRAS’s Cuba-Russia Connection program. Writing about Russian and East European culture helps her sharpen her multicultural communication skills and gain the background and open-mindedness that will be fundamental to her future international law career.