Orchestras

Optina Pustyn Male Choir

About group

The Optina Pustyn male choir was founded in the Dormition Metochion of the Optina Pustyn monastery in St. Petersburg in 1996. On September 15, 1996, on Anthony and Theodosius of Kiev feast day, the first znamenny liturgy was celebrated. Besides ancient Russian one-voiced chants, various types of Russian polyphonic chants were performed at the service: strochnoye singing, znamenny polyphony and early partsong, as well as chants from Orthodox cantatory traditions — Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian and Georgian. At services the choir sings according to the 17th century ‘Kievan znamya’ that synodic one-voiced song books are printed in. The absolute majority of composers, including P.I. Tchaikovsky and S.V. Rachmaninoff, based their sacred music on chants from those books. Besides decipherments of ancient Russian polyphony, the choir performs their own and composer versions of church chants, as well as the most outstanding works by church composers. The singing tradition that has been established at Metochion services correlates to the era when multiple forms of a chant existed, during the reign of Alexei Mikhailovich and till the end of the Petrine era.

The ensemble is composed of twelve professional singers – graduates of the St. Petersburg Conservatory; seven to nine soloists go on tours. Alexander Semyonov, the founder, Artistic Director and Choir Master, graduated the Choral Conducting Faculty of the St. Petersburg Conservatory in the class of Valery Borisov, and he also attended symphony conducting in the class of Eduard Serov. After graduating from the Conservatory, he studied ancient Russian hook notations under the guidance of Albina Kruchinina and Zivar Guseynova. The choir consists of outstanding St. Petersburg soloists: Vladimir Miller (basso profondo), leading singer of St. Petersburg State Academic Capella and Mariinsky Opera and Ballet House; Viktor Khaprov (bass); Dmitry Shishkin (bass), laureate of international competitions; Sergey Grigoriev (Choir Master, bass); Boris Petrov (baritone), laureate of international competitions; Dmitry Pisarev (baritone), laureate of international competitions; Andrey Ivanushkin (Choir Master, tenor); Nikita Chernikov (tenor); Ivan Egorov (tenor); Alexander Gorbatenko (counter-tenor), laureate of international competitions. The range of male voices is vast: from F1 to f2; mastery of vocal nuances and thorough selection of the timbral ensemble enable the choir members to achieve superb artistic results in many choral genres: from medieval monody to contemporary polyphonic scores.

The Optina Pustyn choir presents undiscovered areas of music culture, drawing historical and artistic parallels between various genres and styles of church music. The first choir’s concert programme was put together in 1998, and included transcriptions of spiritual and secular compositions made by A. Semyonov. The choir toured Russia with the programmes “Millennium of Russian Church Singing” (2000) and “Saintly Love” (2003). In 2008, at the Regensburg Museum of History (Germany), the choir presented the programme “Chants of an ancient Church” that included Gregorian, Ambrosian, Byzantine, Armenian and Georgian chants of the 5th–14th centuries performed in the original languages. In 2011, the choir performed the programme “Ars Antiqua & Ars Nova” together with Belgian conductor Paul van Nevel, the founder of the Huelgas Ensemble. This programme included masterpieces of Western European polyphony of the Renaissance. In 2013, in the St. Petersburg Philharmonia, the choir performed the programme “Chants of the Sovereign Singers”. The chants that were conceived in the most famous Russian singing corporation were accompanied by musical and historical commentaries on the reign of Ivan III, Ivan IV, Fyodor I, Alexei Mikhailovich and Peter the Great. The audience also enjoys concert programmes dedicated to Christmas, Great Lent and Easter Sunday.

The Optina Pustyn choir has performed in over 35 Russian cities and towns and in over 20 countries worldwide. The choir gave concerts in the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Moscow Kremlin, St. Sophia Cathedrals in Novgorod and in Kiev, in many churches and cathedrals in Europe, in the St. Petersburg Philharmonia, in the St. Petersburg State Capella, in Tchaikovsky Concert Hall (Moscow) and the Moscow International House of Music, in Laeiszhalle (Hamburg), Temppeliaukio (Helsinki), Rikskonserter (Stockholm). In 2006, a collaboration album with the I Solisti Veneti orchestra was released on the Warner Music label. Over the years of its existence, the choir has released 15 solo albums.

Nearest concerts


Grand Hall:
191186, St. Petersburg, Mikhailovskaya st., 2
+7 (812) 240-01-80, +7 (812) 240-01-00
Small Hall:
191011, St. Petersburg, Nevsky av., 30
+7 (812) 240-01-70
Write us:
Box office opening hours: 11 am to 8 pm (on concerts days to 8.30 pm)
Lunch Break: 3 pm to 4 pm
Box office opening hours: from 11 am to 7 pm (on concerts days to 7.30 pm)
Lunch Break: 3 pm to 4 pm
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Saint-Petersburg Philharmonia