Russian baritone Sergei Leiferkus is recognised as one of the century's great virtuoso
singers, an artist who is both in the famous Russian tradition of baritones and basses and
who also transverses across a very wide cultural spectrum. His interpretations of major
roles such as Eugene Onegin, Iago, Scarpia and Mephistopheles have become contemporary
performance yardsticks of those parts.
Born in Leningrad in 1946, Sergei Leiferkus studied at the Leningrad, now St
Petersburg, Conservatory. He made his debut with the Maly Theatre of Leningrad in 1972,
where he became a member, gaining notable attention in Eugene Onegin, Iolanta, the Barber
of Seville and Don Giovanni. In 1977 he joined the Kirov Opera Company, making his debut
as Andrei in Prokofiev's War and Peace which was conducted by Valery Gergiev, then the
assistant conductor to the Music Director Yuri Temirkanov. It was at the Kirov Opera that
Sergei Leiferkus's international reputation as a powerful singer and imaginative actor was
In 1982 Sergei Leiferkus was engaged to sing at the Wexford Festival, to where he was
invited back for four consecutive seasons. It was during this time that he defected to the
West from the Soviet Union, one of the last artists to manage to leave Soviet Russia
during the era of severe USSR restrictions. In 1983 he appeared with the Berlin
Philharmonic Orchestra under Kurt Masur, and soon he was greatly in demand by the major
opera houses and orchestras in Western Europe and the USA.
Sergei Leiferkus has been extremely highly sought after by the leading conductors and
producers of our day, particularly at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Vienna
State Opera, the New York Metropolitan Opera, and the La Scala Opera House Milan. He has
made a tremendous impression on them and audiences with his penetrating and richly
colourful voice and his powerful but highly subtle acting. He has been particularly
acclaimed for his performances of Eugene Onegin, Mazeppa, Telramund, Don Pizarro, Giorgio
Germont, Amonasoro, Don Carlo (in La Forza del Destino), Scarpia, Don Giovanni,
Mephistopheles (in The Damnation of Faust), Escamillo, Prince Igor, Iago, and Macbeth.
These are just a small handful of his vast operatic repertoire.
Sergei Leiferkus also has a large concert, oratorio and recital repertoire. In concert
and oratorio he is greatly in demand by the world's top orchestras and conductors,
including the London Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia, and
Berlin Philharmonic under conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Valery Gergiev, Bernard
Haitink, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti and Seiji Ozawa. He enjoyed a particularly happy
association with the late Sir Georg Solti, with whom he performed the role of Iago
opposite Placidó Domingo's Otello at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. In recitals,
audiences have loved the intimate and sometimes humorous side of Sergei Leiferkus's art,
as well as the great poetry in his renderings of a very wide song repertoire. He has
enthralled recital audiences in London, New York, Tanglewood (the Boston Symphony
Orchestra's summer festival venue) and Vienna with the vivid characterisation and yet deep
sensitivity of his performances.
Although Sergei Leiferkus has lived in the West for over fifteen years he feels deeply
close to his Russian heritage. A great lover of Russian literature, he profoundly believes
that Russian music of the 19th and 20th Centuries must be understood
through a close acquaintance with Russia’s entire cultural and social history.
Sergei Leiferkus's warm and generous personality is dramatically contrasted with the
many wicked villains he portrays on stage so convincingly. Off stage he is a particularly
gentle and modest person with a philosophical approach to people and life in general.