One of a number of former Soviet block tenors to have achieved fame in the West, Sergei Larin ranked with the best. Although his instrument was somewhat light for certain of the heroic roles he undertook, it nonetheless demonstrated a shine and absence of throatiness setting him apart from most of his contemporaries. His gifts did not go unrecognized by major conductors; he was engaged by such maestros as Claudio Abbado and Zubin Mehta for productions presented both live and on recording. His youthful good looks gave an additional impetus to his career, affording him an advantage where video recording was an issue. In addition to stage work, Larin became a persuasive recitalist; several programs of songs have been preserved on disc.
After studying languages in Gorky and undergoing voice training in his native country, Larin made his debut at Lithuania's opera and ballet theater in 1981, singing Alfredo in La traviata. Nearly a decade of performances at various Soviet venues passed before Larin made his debut in the West. Although his introductory role was Lensky in Yevgeny Onegin, Larin elected not to specialize in the Russian repertory, but announced himself as a good fit for Italian, French, and German roles as well. Indeed, it was as Don José that he made his London debut in 1991 while Cavaradossi served for his debuts at both Paris and the Metropolitan Opera.
Still, the prevailingly lyric impact of his strong tenor made him the choice for important Russian roles at several theaters. His experience with Boris Godunov began with the Fool, took him next to the role of the wily Shuisky, and finally to the False Dmitri. The Metropolitan Opera heard his first performances of the Pretender when the Kirov visited in 1992. In 1994, Larin sang Dmitri with Abbado at the Salzburg Festival, a production recorded and honored critically as an important achievement by all participants. Salzburg audiences heard Larin's Don Carlos in 1998.
Another Italian role in which Larin received both positive attention and no small celebrity was Calaf, sung in a production of Puccini's Turandot mounted in China and recorded, video taped, and distributed globally. Within the respectable cast, Larin received the most consistently complimentary notices and benefited (as did other cast members) from the extensive publicity surrounding the event.
In addition to Boris Godunov and Turandot, two other recordings feature noteworthy work by Larin in the company of other commendable singers. His Andrei in Neeme Järvi's recording of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa placed him in the company of Sergei Leiferkus, Galina Gorchakova, Anatoly Kotcherga, and Larissa Diadkova, the top Russian singers in the 1990s. Similarly, his Sergei in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District cast him with exemplary singers save for a somewhat over-parted protagonist.
Larin recorded several discs of Russian songs for the Chandos label, exploring Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky in discs entirely devoted to their works and offering another recital devoted to songs of "The Mighty Handful" (Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, Balakirev, Borodin, and Mussorgsky) as well as two discs of miscellany, including Medtner, Grechaninov, Rubinstein, and Kalinnikov. His accompanist in this project was Eleonora Bekova.