Nicola GHIUSELEV (1936 - 2014) at Roudaki Hall Opera House in Tehran, Iran

The opera aficionados around the world have suffered another great loss. Nicola Ghiuselev, an outstanding Bulgarian operatic bass, born August 17, 1936, died May 16, 2014, at the age of 77. The cause of his demise was not revealed.

On May 20, 2014, during the condolatory address from the Ministry of Culture, Nicola Ghiuselev was posthumously decorated with the “Golden Age” award for his exceptional merits and contributions to the development of Bulgarian culture and Bulgarian art and culture abroad. Among the many recognitions, he was the 2009 recipient of an honorary title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

Leaving behind an illustrious career of almost five decades, Nicola Ghiuselev’s vocal technique and articulation coalesced naturally into his intense Slavic expressiveness and Italian belcanto. Through the years, he emerged as one of the Bulgarian singers of the Pleiade, alongside Boris Christoff, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Christo Brambarov, Ivan Popov, and Asen Selimski. While his basso cantante repertoire included more than seventy roles, he was greatly admired for his portrayals of the Tsar Boris in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and as King Philip II in Verdi’s Don Carlos.

In September 1973 at Roudaki Hall Opera House, Nicola Ghiuselev made his memorable and powerful dramatic impression as Boris Godunov, the ill-fated Russian Tsar tormented with guilt over the slain child, Tsarevich Dimitri, the youngest son of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, the heir to the throne.

Nicola Ghiuselev as Boris Godunov at Roudaki Hall, Tehran, 1973
(Courtesy Liliana Osses Adams)

At the opening night of the 1973-74 season, Director of Roudaki Hall, Enayat Rezai presented the strongly cast première of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, sung in Russian. The company’s honored designer, Theo Lau produced the set with brilliant thematic contrast between Russia and Poland-Lithuania. Conductor Manrico de Tura, an animated specialist of the Italian repertory, led the opera orchestra in the four-act and seven scenes revised version (1872-75). Alfred Mardoyan was responsible for the preparation of the chorus. The costumes of muted colors were designed by Ingeborg Kettner and were executed in the theatre’s workshop by Nahid Mohebbi. The following cast of singers featured Nahid Hemmatabadi (Fyodor), Daniel Goujwin (in double role as Prince Shuisky and Missail), Edmund Kossowski (Pimen), Zvonimir Krnetic (Gregory Otrepiev), Pari Samar Arianpour (Marina Mnishek), Soudabeh Safaieh and Hilla Gharakhanian (Xenia), George Pialoga (in double role as Rangony and Nikitich), Ladko Korosec (Varlaam), Leonar Hajari (in double role as Nurse and Innkeeper), and Rashid Watandust (Simpleton), Sarkis Ghukassian (in double role as Cherniavsky and boyar Shchelkalov), Esfandyar Gharabaghi (Lavitsky) completed the rest of the ensemble.

Cast list for Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at Tehran Roudaki Hall, 1973
(Courtesy Liliana Osses Adams)

Boris Godunov libretto by the composer, based upon 1825 play by Alexander Pushkin was inspired by the most curious episode of the last quarter of 16th century Russia during the Time of Troubles, the famine and pestilence.
It is a historic reenactment about the Russian Tsar, who reigned only for seven years (1598-1605), which ended in tragic conflict between Boris Godunov and Dimitri I False, the Pretender, whose name was Gregory Otrepiev, and who claimed to be the missing young Dimitri that survived the assassination attempt ordered by Boris Godunov.

The program cover page at Roudaki Hall was designed with a detailed portrait of Boris Godunov by a 16th century unknown artist in the depository of the Museum of History and Reconstruction in Moscow.

Program cover page: Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at Roudaki Hall, 1973
(Courtesy Liliana Osses Adams)

Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at Tehran Roudaki Hall, September 1973
(At the center) Nicola Ghiuselev as Boris Godunov in the Coronation Scene
Photo by kind permission of Dir. Enayat Rezai

Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at Roudaki Hall Opera House, September 1973
(From left to right) E.Kossowski (Pimen), N.Ghiuselev (Tsar Boris), D.Goujvin (Shuisky)
Photo by kind permission of Dir. Enayat Rezai

Nicola Ghiuselev vividly recalled, when as a young adult, aged 15, studying painting at the School of the Fine Arts in Sofia, he listened on radio to the Boris Godunov Monolog sung by Edmund Kossowski, the Polish bass. It was the vinyl record from live performances in Moscow during the Poznań Opera Grand Theater artistic tournée in the Soviet Union (December 21, 1952 - January 12, 1953), in the presence of Generalissimo Joseph Stalin.
In his biography La Voce che Dipinge (”The Voice that Paints”), written by Aleksander Abagiev, he credited Edmund Kossowski for his own interest in opera, and in 1955, he began taking vocal lessons with Prof. Christo Brambarov.

By fate or through fortunate circumstances they met in 1973 at Roudaki Hall Opera House in Tehran, where they both appeared in the production of Boris Godunov.

Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at Poznań Opera in Poland
Edmund Kossowski as Tsar Boris Godunov
Premièred under Dir. Walerian Bierdiajew in 1950
Photo by courtesy of Tadeusz Boniecki, Poznań Opera Archive

The Roudaki Hall artistic season 1974-75, opened with Verdi’s Don Carlos revised 1884 “Milan version” in four-acts, sung in Italian, under the baton of Maestro Manrico de Tura and Vincenzo Giannini, the chorus master. The opera production personnel included Walter Pohl (regisseur), Theo Lau (scenery) and Helen Ensha (costumes).

Program cover page: Verdi’s Don Carlos at Roudaki Hall, Tehran, 1974
(Courtesy Liliana Osses Adams)

The whole cast of renowned and finest singers graced the stage, such as Giorgio Tozzi in the role of King Philip II, William Holley as Don Carlos, Dan Serbac as Rodrigo, Edmund Kossowski in the role of the Grand Inqusitor, Jerzy Sypek as Monk, Sudebeh Tadjbakhsh in the role of Elisabetta, Pari Samar Arianpour as Princess Eboli, Turan Nikju as Tebaldo, Gisela Schnetz as the Contessa of Aremberg, a lady-in-waiting to Elisabetta, Rashid Watandoust as the Count di Lerma, and Pari Zanganeh as A Voice from Heaven.

Cast list for Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlos at Roudaki Hall, Tehran, 1974
(Courtesy Liliana Osses Adams)

After two years, during the 1976-77 season, Roudaki Hall repeated the past successes of Verdi’s Don Carlos in scenic design from 1974 by Theo Lau. Directed by Ande Anderson, under the musical direction of Farshad Sanjari, Nicola Ghiuselev’s deeply moving presentation of Philip II, dignified and at the same time lonely and vulnerable as the Spanish King, filled the stage with extraordinary vocal and dramatic shadings, especially in the aria Ella giammai m’amò (She never loved me!)

Giuseppe Verdi 1977 revival of Don Carlos at Roudaki Hall in Tehran
Scenery designed by Theo Lau, 1974
(Courtesy Liliana Osses Adams)

Program page cover: Verdi’s Don Carlos at Roudaki Hall, 1977
(Courtesy Liliana Osses Adams)

The international cast of singers headed by Nicola Ghiuselev (Philip II), Antigone Sgourda (Elisabetta), Octaviano Naghiu (Don Carlos), Giovanni Gusmeroli (Inquisitor) was completed by the company singers Pari Samar in the role of Eboli, Hossein Sarshar as Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, Rima Nowzad as Tebaldo, page to Elisabetta, Sarksis Ghoukassian as Monk, Djahangir Zamani as the Count of Lerma, and Pari Zanganeh as A Voice of Heaven.

Cast list for Verdi’s Don Carlos at Roudaki Hall, 1977
(Courtesy Liliana Osses Adams)

Nicola’s death, announced on the day when I celebrated my birthday, particularly saddened me.
Farewell to a good Friend and to the great Artist. We Pray for the Repose of His Soul.

© Liliana Osses Adams
California, July 2014

Please visit Nicola Ghiuselev Official Website at