May 18, 1914 – June 28, 1993
Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff first qualified in law before pursuing a singing career. He debuted singing Colline in La Boheme in Calabria in 1946. In 1950 he was invited to sing at the Metropolitan but was denied entry to the USA due to restrictive Immigration laws denying citizens from the Soviet bloc entering the country.
His place was filled by the young Cesare Siepi. After the laws were relaxed he made his US debut in 56 with the San Francisco Opera- he refused all offers to sing at the Met ever. He was best known for roles in the Russian repertoire and Verdi.
He recorded prolifically and set a standard for dramatic basses onstage that is remembered to this day. His famous roles included Tsar Boris. Attila, Nabucco, Prince Igor, and Mephistopheles in Faust and Boito’s Mefistofele.
While he was a grand performer of the old type- he frequently had difficult relations with his colleagues that sometimes turned into full blown scandals. In 1955 he had a famous stouche with Maria Callas during a performance in Rome of Medea and in 1961 he had an open conflict with Nicolai Ghiaurov a fellow Bulgarian, (husband of Soprano, Mirella Freni) because he accused Ghiarurov of collaborating with the communist regime of Bulgaria- and his contract with La Scala was terminated.
A later fallout was with Herbert Von Karajan who wanted him to sing Don Giovanni – a role he was patently unsuited to due to the range. The two never spoke again. His final concert was in Rome in 1986 and he died there in 1993. His body was returned to Sofia where he was given a State Funeral.
Boris Christoff was the brother in law of the great Italian baritone Tito Gobbi.