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Mark Reizen (1895 - 1992)


Mark Reizen was born into a large Jewish family remarkable for its musicality and the longevity of its individual members (his grandfather lived to be over 100 years old). The family had mining connections, his father being the manager of a coal mine. Mark, his four brothers and his sisters were all trained to play instruments such as the mandolin, guitar, balalaika and accordion.

With the outbreak of World War I Reizen joined the Tsarist army, being twice wounded and twice awarded the St George Cross, the highest decoration for an ordinary soldier. While in the army he and a music-loving commander organised an instrumental and vocal group to entertain the troops. After his second wound Reizen was discharged from the army and following the end of the war entered the Kharkov Polytechnic Institute with the aim of becoming an engineer. However while he was still a student, a friend enrolled him for a vocal audition at the Kharkov Conservatoire. This was successful and Reizen studied there with Federico Bugamelli during 1919 and 1920. He made his operatic stage debut at the Kharkov Opera in 1921 as Pimen / Boris Godunov, later making a significant impact in the title role of Boito’s Mefistofele.

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