The Renaissance marks the transition from the Middle Ages to a modern world. We saw the rise of famous painters such as Michelangelo and Raphael, and sculptors such as Donatello. The impact on art and culture is enormous. And with the rise of painting, sculpting, and poetry, we, too, saw the rise of opera.
A Brief History of Opera highlights the creation of opera: An Italian musical troupe re-created a class Greek play. Two different styles began to emerge—one of high-brow drama and the other style is more comedic in nature. Opera evolved throughout the years and eventually piqued the interest of one famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart was regarded as “the ultimate Classical opera composer.” Opera was a culture powerhouse. It spread across Europe and really cemented itself in European culture. It did not, however, find as much success in America until centuries later, according to A Brief History of Opera. And we owe quite a bit of credit to Boris Goldovsky for introducing opera to the United States and most notably, Utah and the western United States.
Boris Goldovsky was born in Moscow, Russia. He hailed from a musically gifted family. His mother was a violinist and his uncle a famous concert pianist. When Goldovsky began playing instruments at a young age, he was called a prodigy, writes Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times.
In 1961, The Daily Utah Chronicle reported that Goldovsky’s families fled as refugees to Germany because of the Russian Revolution. And Germany is where he fell in love with opera. Germany was the epicenter for opera in the early 1900s. Many famous conductors originated in this area and there was a lot of high-quality music schools in the country. (A Brief History of Opera) Goldovsky attended a musical school in Berlin and Paris, which was the beginning of his opera career. (Tommasini)
In his young adulthood, he eventually moved to New England in the early 1920s. He continued his music education at Institute of Music in Philadelphia, the Chronicle reported in 1961. Goldovsky quickly realized opera was not as known in America, but he decided to dedicate his life to fix that.
For opera aficionados in the Mountain West, life became better because of Goldovsky. Billy Rose wrote in the Salt Lake Telegram about Boris Goldovsky being an opera great. He began to make his name known in the West. Goldovsky won a Peabody Award by being a master of ceremonies at the Metropolitan Opera and he rocketed to opera prominence. (The Daily Utah Chronicle, 1960)
Eventually, Goldovsky was invited to speak at the University of Utah through Assemblies and Convocation, a speaking series intended to bring notable people to speak to and inspire University of Utah students. Goldovksy was set to speak after Dr. Martin Luther King and was touted as a “one-man opera show.” (The Daily Utah Chronicle, 1961) Salt Lake City is one of the largest cities in the Mountain West, so it was logical for Goldovsky to frequent the city. But he wanted to extend the magic of opera to even the smallest places.
In 1981 the Iron County Record advertised a radio performance of Rigoletto, a world-famous opera show. This marked the first time this opera had played in the entire western United States. Goldovsky also brought Met Opera to Southern Utah. (Iron County Record, 1981) Goldovsky held performances at Kingsbury Hall many times through the Goldovksy Grand Opera Production. The Daily Utah Chronicle stated in 1963 that the production of Rigoletto was the first time an English translation was performed in the United States. He continued to bring opera to the West. According to the Chronicle, Boris led many workshops with students and faculty alike. He led, too, many community projects through his own opera house and production company.
We can thank Boris Goldovsky, a man who was torn away from his home country of Russia, for bringing opera to the West. His passion for his craft was exemplified by his community work, ongoing learning, and dedication to the opera scene for his entire lifetime. The Daily Utah Chronicle, Iron County Record and The Salt Lake Telegram reported that Goldovsky brought world-wide famous art to Salt Lake City, which marked the first time these performances occurred in the western United States.
Taisia Auston is a senior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in communication with an emphasis on strategic communication.
Billy Rose, “Billy Takes Note as ‘Met’ ‘Dream Board’ Holds Meet,” Salt Lake Telegram, September 2, 1948.
“Top Speakers Set For Shows,” Daily Utah Chronicle, September 22-23, 1960.
“Boris Goldovsky Slates Kingsbury Hall Show,” Daily Utah Chronicle, May 9, 1961.
“‘Rigoletto’ Production One-Showing Tonite,” Daily Utah Chronicle, March 29, 1963.
“Met Opera to Air,” Iron County Record, March 19, 1981.
“KGSU to Air Rigoletto,” Iron County Record, December 17, 1981.
“U. S. Operagoers Feel Inferior,” Salt Lake Telegram, May 19, 1939 (link)
Anthony Tommasini, “Boris Goldovsky, 92, Musician And Opera’s Avid Evangelist,” The New York Times, February 19, 2001.
“A Brief History of Opera,” San Francisco Opera.