|Ildar Abdrazakov ( Jason Bell)|
It could almost be the plot of an opera: a dark, dashing descendant of both Genghis Khan and Tamerlane appears and sweeps all before him. But in the case of Russian-born bass Ildar Abdrazakov—“I’m one-fourth Tatar and three-fourths Bashkirian,” he says with a smile—it happens to be true. A native of Ufa, the capital of the Russian republic of Bashkortostan (also known as Bashkiria), Abdrazakov, 37, has emerged in the past few years as one of the most sought-after young basses in the operatic world. He was pitch-perfect as the brooding prince in the Metropolitan Opera’s production last season of Borodin’s Prince Igor. But what Abdrazakov actually likes best is Italian opera: “I only started singing the Russian roles when I came west,” he says. His supple, burnished bass shines in the lyrical Rossini-to-Verdi canon, along with his comedic flair.
This season he’ll star in a new Met production of Le Nozze di Figaro, directed by Richard Eyre, set in 1920s Seville. Abdrazakov made his debut as Figaro at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1998 and has since sung the part of Mozart’s beloved servant more than a hundred times. “There are many aspects of the role,” he says. “Comedy, drama, some lyric tones.” He keeps it fresh by always “finding something new, a small departure.” Abdrazakov loves working with the Met’s music director, James Levine, who will be conducting Figaro when it opens on September 22. “For him the acting is just as important as the music,” he says. “Even a hand gesture has to connect. It’s very organic—everything all together. He’s a genius.”