Pavel Lisitsian is the son of a mine worker and, though he sang his first solos in church at the age of nine, he started working in the mines when he finished high school. At the age if nineteen, he went to Leningrad to work as welder; at the same time, he took classes in the college of music. Two years later, he became a soloist at the Youth Opera, singing Fiorello in Il barbiere di Siviglia; in 1935 came his debut at the Leningrad Maliy Opera Theater. After singing for several years with the opera company at Erevan, Armenia, he was heard in Moscow while the company was on tour. In 1940, he debuted at the Bolshoi Theatre as Yeletsky in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. Soon Lisitsian volunteered to entertain the troops during World War II, giing over 500 performances, sometimes singing three or four times in a day. His good looks and high lyric baritone voice made him a great favorite and he was soon singing all of the leading lyric baritone roles at the Bolshoi and other major opera houses in the Soviet Union. In addition to the standard Russian repertoire including all of the important baritone roles in the Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov operas, Lisitsian also sang Valentin in Faust, Germont in La Traviata and Escamillo in Carmen. Because of his excellent musicianship he was in demand for many premieres, and he created roles in about forty operas, including Shaporin's The Decembrists and Prokofiev's War and Peace. He continued his interest in Armenian opera, creating the title role in Tchukhatjian's Tsar Arshak II. As travel became less restricted in the Soviet Union, he enjoyed great success in Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, the U.S., Canada, and Japan. It was during a recital tour of the U.S. that he made his Metropolitan Opera debut on March 3, 1960, as Amonasro in Aida. Although the critics admired his musicianship, the public was less enthusiastic, as they were used to the more powerful voices of Warren and Merrill in this role. In 1966, Lisitsian retired from the opera stage but continued to give many concerts. His repertoire is reported to have included over 1,000 songs in twenty-five languages. His two daughters and his son would sometimes join him for performances of the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes. Also a voice teacher, he was a strong influence on the next generation of Russian singers. Lisitsian was made a People's Artist of the Soviet Union in 1956. His sister-in-law was noted mezzo-soprano Zara Dolukhanova.
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