The Latvian National Opera Choir
The opera’s choir was founded in 1918, the same year as the Latvju Opera, established in Russia by Professor Jāzeps Vītols, returned to Riga. The first choir master was Pauls Jozuus. Since that time, opera performances in Riga have been unimaginable without the remarkable work of the choir. Though audiences were often critical of performances during the opera’s early years, the choir has always been highly regarded, as it continues to be today.
In 1995, following the reconstruction of the Latvian National Opera building, a new creative period began for the LNO Choir. The opera was praised not only by local audiences by also by foreign critics, who lauded the choir as a unified and very compatible ensemble. “The team of soloists and the choir’s achievement was remarkable – Shostakovich’s works have rarely sounded so adequate, tense, and precise,” wrote Sergei Hodnyev of the newspaper Kommersant, after the LNO’s guest performance in Moscow in October of 2007. The LNO Choir’s main qualities today are its temperament, stage sense, and steady tone, which won the choir the Latvijas Gāze Annual Award in 2006 and received a nomination for the Latvian Great Music Award in 2007, in the category “for a remarkable achievement by an ensemble.” Many LNO soloists blessed with superb vocal and acting talent have also come up from the ranks of the choir, including Kristīne Opolais, Antra Bigača, Evita Raituma, Dace Volfarte, Aleksandrs Antoņenko, Miervaldis Jenčs, Aivars Krancmanis, Rihards Mačanovskis, Armands Siliņš, Andris Lapiņš, and the remarkable chamber-music singer Ieva Parša.
The most famous LNO choir masters, under the direction of whom the choir has achieved a particular musical quality, include Pauls Jozuus (from 1919 to 1935), Teodors Kalniņš (from 1921 to 1940), and Haralds Mednis (from 1945 to 1969). Many others have been praised for their work with the choir during various time periods, such as Rūdolfs Vanags, Ansis Alberings, Juris Radiškevičs, Ilgvars Matrozis, Vilmārs Vasulis, Edgars Račevskis, Jānis Zirnis, Mārcis Katajs, Didzis Kauliņš, Normunds Vaicis, Mārtiņš Ozoliņš, and Andris Veismanis. Since 2006 the chief choir master at the LNO has been Aigars Meri.