Evgeny Mikhailovich Belyaev
Klintsy, September 11 1926 – February 21/22 1994
Evgeny Mikhailovich Belyaev, also written as Yevgeny Belyayev,
( was a Russian tenor soloist of the Alexandrov Ensemble under Boris Alexandrov.
He is remembered in the Soviet Union as the Russian Nightingale and in the West as one of the definitive singers of Kalinka.
In RA Format
1926: On September 11, he was born in Klintsy in the Bryansk Oblast. As a child he was known by the diminutive, Zhenia.
As a schoolboy, he won a singing competition at the Artek (camp) (Young Pioneer camp) near the Black Sea.
During World War II, he served in the subdivision of zenith troops and gained the Army Olympiad Prize. He fought in Czechoslovakia
and served as a Lance Corporal in the first Red Orders of Suvorov and Kutuzov division of the Carpathian Military District of the 4th
Ukrainian Front under the command of General-Colonel Andrei Yeremenko. He is also said to have been in an anti-aircraft warfare unit
and to have finished the war as a sergeant. He is said to have sung in the lulls between the fighting.
He then graduated from Gnessin State Musical College. He married and had two sons, one of whom was a professional pianist.
1947: He was a soloist of the Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Carpathian military district.
1952: He became a Member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
1955: He was a soloist of the Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Soviet Army of Alexandrov (Alexandrov Ensemble).
Under conductor Boris Alexandrov he recorded many songs, and performed all over the world: e.g. Europe, USA, Canada and Japan.
The Ensemble performed music by Soviet composers, and Russian and Ukrainian folk songs. Kalinka always drew special applause.
During his time as soloist with the Ensemble, Belyaev's singing teacher was Yevgeny Kanger, who only trained the leading soloists.
1958: Received the title: Honoured Artist of Russia (Meritorious Artist).
1960: Received the title: People's Artist of Russia.
1967: He was made People's Artist of the USSR.
1960s-1970s: When the ensemble visited London, Belyaev was described as the "Russian Nightingale" and "Mr Kalinka",
and again "Monsieur Kalinka" in France.
1978: He won the State Prize of the USSR.
1980: He appears to have been associated in some way with Roskontsert (or Roskontserta), the big-band variety orchestra headed by
the Russian jazz musician Oleg Lundstrem]. Also in this year he sang the voice-over part of the cartoon rabbit in the Russian film,
Pif Paf Oi Oi Oi (possibly Dir. Garri Bardin, 1980). This animated cartoon dramatizes via opera a Russian nursery rhyme about a
hunter shooting a rabbit ("Pif-paf!") which is brought home and found to be still alive ("Oi! Oi!"). Belyaev mainly performed in small
chamber concerts in Russia after he left the Ensemble.
At some point he was made Honorary Citizen of Klintsy, his home town.
1994: On February 21 or 22, he died.
The first "Mr Kalinka" was Victor Nikitin who was also the first to perform it
with the dramatic, overarching and operatic notes which now precede the chorus in every Ensemble soloist's performance of this song.
The origin of this kind of tenor-bravado introduction to a song is in Arab music, and can still be heard in Flamenco cante jondo.
"Kalinka" is a trivial song about a snowball tree, but it lends itself perfectly to this kind of operatic showing-off.
Belyaev himself was already the recipient of popular acclaim after the 1956 London tour, and he had already been called
"Mr Kalinka": the obvious natural successor to Nikitin, who returned to the chorus on his own wish, due a less than perfect technique
that damaged his voice.
In fact it was very possibly the Cold War which kept him
tied to the Ensemble and away from the operatic career which he clearly deserved. Since Nikitin, "Kalinka" has always been one
of the signature songs of the Ensemble, and the performances are always presented as both great achievement and great fun.
In RA Format
I wish to thank Vladimir Efimenko for the recording (Vsegda ty horosha) and his help to prepare this material.