Sepia German postcard photo of the great Russian bass, who has dated it 1929 and is shown in the role of Mephistopheles, probably in Boito's Mefistofele.
Metropolitan Opera audiences probably were not ready for Feodor Chaliapin when he made his house debut on November 20, 1907, in the title role of a new production of Boito's Mefistofele. He made a stunning impression, but the all-too-convincing intensity of his performance made many uncomfortable. Chaliapin stayed at the Met for only three months. He did not return until 1921 - a man without a country, after a disillusioning flirtation with the Soviet regime - by which time he had taken full command of the title role in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, the vehicle of his triumphant comeback at the Met. (He sang in Russian, everyone else in Italian.) How sweet it must have been, in the fall of 1922, when revisited Mefistofele at the Met, to cheers and rave reviews. "Chaliapin deserved no less honor than was accorded him," wrote Max Smith in the New York American, after describing the thunderous ovations. "Sixteen years ago, despite critical remonstrance, his portrayal of Mephistopheles was an achievement unequalled … a creation of genius."PHO-11168$500