Famous Male Opera Singers – Modest Menzinsky

Famous Tenor M. Menzinsky
Famous Tenor M. Menzinsky

Modest Menzinsky (1875 – 1935) was a famous male opera singer. His tenor voice was ideally suited for the full range of operas by Wagner and Menzinsky sang all of them. During his time on stage as a singer, Modest Menzinsky performed every major male opera role in the great opera theatres across Europe.

Modest Menzinsky performed all over Europe. Press critics and the public of the 1920s and 1930s considered Modest Menzinsky to be a great opera singer. The people of Sweden, Germany, Austria and Ukraine consider him to be one of their famous tenors.

Click to hear….

Click to hear Modest Menzinsky sing Lohengrin from the opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner, from the archives of the S.Krushelnytska Museum, Lviv, Ukraine
Please be aware that there is a 30 sec. orchestral introduction.

 

Short Biography of a Famous Male Opera Singer

Modest Menzinsky was born on April 29, 1875 in the village of Novosilky, which at the time was part of the Austrian Empire. Today, it is in Ukraine.

Menzinsky was the only male of four children. As a young man, he followed family tradition and began his studies in theology at the University of Lviv. His music studies, Menzinsky began in secret.

“But it so happened, that even though my parents had chosen the path of theology for me, learning behind the thick walls of the Lviv monastey was not to my liking. My soul yearned for the arts and music and for me, this was the most difficult test. It was strictly forbidden for theology students to attend the theatre. Contrary to this, I found ways to circumvent the strict rules of the monastery and then my heart and ear filled with the music of “Lohengrin” and “Tanhauser”. I also visited professor Valeriy Vysotsky of the Music Academy and had my first voice lessons with him. Of course, no one knew about this and these were “stolen lessons”, although very dear to me.”

from an article “How I Came to the Stage” by Modest Menzinsky

In 1899, with the consent of his parents, Modest Menzinsky began to study voice with Julius Stockhausen in Frankfurt (Main).

  • April/September 18, 1901, operatic debut at the Frankfurt Opera in the role of Lionel in the opera Marta by Friedrich von Flotow
  • 1904 – 1910, resident soloist at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, performing in German, Italian and Swedish
  • 1908 – 1909 season, contract with the Lviv Opera House
  • 1910 – 1926, resident soloist at the Cologne (Köln) Opera
  • 1927, retired from the opera stage, continued as a singing teacher and professor of voice in Stockholm
  • April 29, 1934, appeared for the last time on his 59th birthday in Stockholm during a radio show.

Modest Menzinsky married Clari in 1905 and had two sons – Georg and Hans.

On December 11, 1935 Modest Menzinsky passed away and was buried in Stockholm, Sweden.

 

Why do the People of Sweden Consider Modest Menzinsky to be One of Their Great Opera Singers?

From left to right: Yurko (Georg), Clari, Mother-in-law, me, Ivan (Hans)
Handwriting. From left to right: Yurko (Georg), Clari, Mother-in-law, me, Ivan (Hans)
From left to right: Yurko (Georg), Clari, Mother-in-law, me, Ivan (Hans)

Modest Menzinsky considered Sweden to be his second homeland. In his memoirs he wrote: “In Stockholm I married a Swedish girl and my wife gave me two sons. So, Stockholm became my second homeland.”

Modest Menzinsky

  • became fluent in Swedish
  • spent 5 years as a soloist with the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm (1904-1908, 1909-1910)
  • sang major tenor roles in Swedish
  • received a Swedish Award of Merit from King Oswald II in 1906
  • obtained Swedish citizenship in 1910
  • retired from the opera stage to Stockholm in 1927
  • passed away in 1935 and as was his wish, is buried in Stockholm, Sweden.

Carl-Gunnar Ahlen, a musicologist and contemporary music critic in Stockholm has stated that “Modest Menzinsky was capable of singing in a variety of styles, which is quite unique for an opera singer”.

 

Why do the People of Germany Consider Modest Menzinsky (Menzynskyj) to be One of Their Great Classical Opera Singers?

M. Menzynskyj as Wagner’s Tristan
M. Menzynskyj as Wagner’s Tristan

Modest Menzinsky was considered one of the greatest Wagner tenors of his time. Of the 13 operas that Richard Wagner completed, Modest Menzinsky counted 10 in his repertoire:

  • Lohengrin, opera Lohengrin
  • Tannhäuser, opera Tannhäuser
  • Erik, opera Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman)
  • Siegmund, opera Die Walküre from Der Ring des Nibelungen “First Day”
  • Siegfried (young), opera Siegfried from Der Ring des Nibelungen “Second Day”
  • Siegfried (old), opera Gotterdämmerung from Der Ring des Nibelungen “Last Day”
  • Walter von Stolzing, opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
  • Tristan, opera Tristan und Isolde
  • Parsifal, opera Parsifal
  • Cola Rienzi, opera Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen

It was an incredible accomplishment, unequaled by many Wagnerian tenors.

 

Why do the People of Austria Consider Modest Menzinsky to be One of Their Great Opera Singers?

Modest Menzinsky in F. Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten
Modest Menzinsky in F. Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten

Modest Menzinsky was personally acquainted with the Austrian composer Franz Schreker (1879 – 1934). Schreker ( Schrecker ) had a significant impact on the development of German language opera during the Weimar Republic.

Because of his personal acquaintance with Franz Schreker, Modest Menzinsky sang the tenor roles in three of the composer’s opera premieres:

  • Die Gezeichneten (The Stigmatized), in Frankfurt (Main) on April 25, 1918
  • Der Schatzgräber (The Treasure Digger), in Frankfurt (Main) on January 21, 1920
  • Irrelohe, in Cologne (Köln) on March 27, 1924. 
 

Why do the People of Ukraine Consider Modest Menzinsky to be One of Their Great Classical Opera Singers?

Concert Dedicated to Famous Opera Singer Modest Menzinsky
Concert Dedicated to Famous Opera Singer Modest Menzinsky

Modest Menzinsky was the first singer to introduce Mykola Lysenko’s music to Western Europe. Mykola Lysenko (1842 – 1912) is considered the father of Ukrainian classical music.

Menzinsky was personally acquainted with Lysenko and corresponded with him on a regular basis.

Modest Menzinsky sang concert tours in the Galicia (Halychyna) region of Ukraine in 1912, 1924, 1925, when he was a resident soloist with the Cologne ( Köln ) Opera. In 1928, after his retirement from the opera stage, he gave a final concert tour in Western Ukraine.

Today, after many years of a Soviet totalitarian regime, the people of Ukraine are rediscovering their cultural roots. This includes researching classical traditions that were denied for a long time and honouring famous opera singers of the past.

Among the old male singers, Modest Menzinsky was remembered in a concert to commemorate the 120th anniversary of his birth in Lviv, Ukraine. Family from Australia, Canada, Sweden and Ukraine gathered on May 5, 1995 to honour one of their own.

The evening concert for the famous male opera singer Modest Menzinsky was under the musical direction of Maestro Myron Yusypovych.


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