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Prominent Poles

Adam Didur, operatic singer (bass)

Photo of Adam Didur, singer

Born:  December 24, 1873, Wola Sekowa, Austrian partition of Poland (presently Poland)

Died: January 7, 1946, Katowice, Poland.

Summary. The late 19th and early 20th century really was the “golden age” of vocal art, represented by such artists as Francesco Tamagno, Mattia Battistini, Giuseppe Anseimi, Luisa Tetrazzini, Maria Galvany, Gemma Bellincioni, Enrico Caruso, Leo Slezak, Fyodor Shaliapin, Victor Maurel and many others. A prominent place in this “parade of stars” was occupied by Polish artists; among them, the brightest stars were Jan De Reszke, Marcelina Sembrich-Kochańska, and her junior by close to 16 years – Adam Didur.
Early days. His father, Antoni Didur, was a rural teacher, his mother, Wincenta Jasinska – the daughter of a forester. After completing secondary school, he went to Lwow (presently Lviv, Ukraine)University where he had his first practical encounter with music – he sang in university choirs. When it became obvious that the 18-year-old Didur had an unusually beautiful voice, he began taking singing lessons with the outstanding teacher Walery Wysocki. Thanks to a fanatical enthusiast of vocal art, Jan Rasp, who was so delighted with the young man's voice that he set aside half his modest railway official's salary every month, Didur was able to continue his studies in Italy.
Opera career. In March 1894, Adam Didur took part in the Lwow performance of “Mass” by Adam Minchejmer – probably his first public appearance.
His opera career began at the theatre in Pinerolo near Turin in the same year; he was the Father Guardian in “La Forza del Destino”. He also appeared at other Italian theatres and later in Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt as well. His greatly successful performances there gained him an invitation to take part in a performance of Beethoven's “Symphony No. 10” with the La Scala, Milan, ensemble. From there, he went to Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires – that was where his true “run to fame” began. In the 1898/99 season he sang at the Victor Emmanuel Theatre in Messina, Italy. He returned to his home country after that, and for the next four seasons was a resident soloist of the Warsaw Opera, appearing in such productions as “Halka”, “Faust”, “Mefistofele”, “Les Huguenots”, “The Haunted Manor”, “Verbum Nobile” and “Aida.” In 1903-06, Didur appeared before the demanding audience of La Scala. In the spring seasons, he traveled to South America, where audiences applauded him enthusiastically.
While he was still in Pinerolo, during rehearsals for “La Forza del Destino”, Didur met the young singer Angela Aranda, who was to sing in this production. The charming Mexican, whose mother was a full-blood Indian, and who had a beautiful mezzo-soprano coloratura voice, became the Polish artist's wife a year later. They came to Warsaw together, and performed together in “Halka.” Out of the couple's five daughters, two died in their youth, and the other three – Ewa, Olga and Mary – inherited their parents' vocal talents.
On 14 November 1908, Didur debuted in the title role in “Mefistofele” at the Manhattan Opera in New York. Two days later, at the opening of the season at the Metropolitan, he was Ramifies in “Aida”. The cast was extraordinary: Emmy Destinn in the title role and Enrico Caruso as Radames; the production was conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Having become a soloist of the Metropolitan, Didur did not give up his European career. He won widespread fame in Russia, where he first appeared in 1909, actually advertised in the press as “the American bass”. He performed at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in “Faust”, “Boris Godunov”, and “Rusalka”, he was invited to Moscow's Zimin Theatre, and he also appeared at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in the 1909-10 season. In 1911, he went to Paris with the Bolshoi ensemble, singing in “Rusalka”. In 1912 – this time announced as an “Italian singer” – he performed at the theatre at St. Petersburg's Ermitazh, and at Moscow's Suvorin Theatre. At the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, he was Mephistopheles in both Gounod's and Boito's operas. In 1913 he was finally billed on Russian posters as a Polish singer – but World War I broke out the next year and Didur, by then back in his home region, was arrested by the Austrian authorities for… refusing to join the army that was to fight against the Russians. His imprisonment didn't last long as things turned out, but that was the end of Didur's appearances at Russian theatres.
Before that, though, on 19 March 1913, Didur created the title role in the U.S. premiere of “Boris Godunov” at the Metropolitan; from that time, he was dubbed “Boris” in America.
Didur remained resident soloist and first bass of the Metropolitan Opera until 1929, and in subsequent seasons gave guest performances there. He finally parted with this famous theatre in the 1931/32 season. During this time, he came to Europe mainly in the summer, appearing in London, Madrid, Barcelona and – until the war broke out – at the Russian theatres mentioned earlier. He was also a regular guest at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. He visited Poland from time to time, receiving standing ovations – even when his marvelous voice had started to show some signs of weakening.
Adam Didur ended his stage career in 1932. In 1939, he was appointed director of the Warsaw Opera, but the outbreak of World War II prevented him from opening the season. He spent the Nazi occupation years in Warsaw, devoting himself mainly to teaching. In fact, he had already been teaching before the war, at the Lwow Conservatory.
As soon as the war ended, the artist, in association with Ludomir Różycki and others, vigorously started working on opening the first opera theatre in Silesia. Just two months after Didur's arrival in Katowice, on 14 June 1945, the first performance of Moniuszko's “Halka” took place. That was when the audience had the last opportunity to hear Adam Didur's voice live. Didur also taught classes at the Katowice Conservatory. He died suddenly during a lesson, on 7 January 1946.
In 1992, the British record company Pearl, which has been very active in re-releasing historic recordings, began releasing a huge, four-volume CD series called Singers of Imperial Russia, largely thanks to the recently deceased great collector Harold Barnes. The third record of the first volume includes as many as 19 recordings made by the young Didur in Warsaw in 1900 and 1901.

Based on biography that appears in the website of Teatr Wielki-Opera Narodowa in Warsaw:
Teatr Wielki-Opera Narodowa
with the permission of Mr.Jacek Gnoinski

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