Book Critique: Piatak & Avrashov. Russian Song & Arias

Posted by Kirill Kuzmin on

This is the first post in a series where I will be talking about books and online resources on Russian lyric diction. It is not my goal to criticize the work of others. I deeply respect anyone who is investing their time and energy into promoting Russian music and making it more accessible to foreign singers and audiences. It is a noble undertaking, and it has been my passion for years as well. There are however many misconceptions and stereotypes, some of which come from the resources I will be discussing.

The book by Piatak and Avrashov contains an article on Russian diction and phonetic readings and word-by-word translations of over a hundred pieces. Regina Avrashov was born and raised in Leningrad (modern Saint Petersburg) and eventually came to the United States where she taught Russian at the University of Colorado. Jean Piatak, according to the information given in their book, “grew up in a Russian-speaking family”. She is a professional singer. She received her M.M. degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and later she taught Russian diction at the University of Colorado.

This book was one of the first (if not the first) book of this nature printed in the US, before the great Russian artists invaded the West. No doubt, it was an invaluable resource back in the day making many Russian pieces infinitely more accessible to American singers. It is no small achievement and I greatly respect the work the authors put into this project.

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