Antanas Sodeika (born on 23 January 1890 in Jurbarkas – died on 12 September 1979 in Vilnius) was a Lithuanian singer (baritone), an organist, apedagogue, acultural worker, one of the creators of the Lithuanian opera theatre.
He was born on 23 January 1890 in Jurbarkas into a family of the Customs official. Father Antanas Sodeika and mother Monika Miliūnaitė had five sons and two daughters. Both parents were musical, liked singing, mother could read music, sang in a church choir. Though life was difficult, the parents sent all their children to school, and Antanas, together with his brothers Stasys and Steponas, also took music lessons.
After finishing Jurbarkas primary school in 1905, he learned a trade of a tailor, later worked as a clerk in an office in Jurbarkas small rural district. Antanas sang in a choir, learned to play the organ with the local organist A. Pocius. He also played in amateur performances. In the comedy Amerika pirtyje [America in a Bath-house] by Keturakis staged by Jurbarkas amateur theatre he played a herds boy. He became acquainted with Stasys Šimkus there.
In 1907, Sodeika left for the USA and settled in Florida. In 1908–1910, he learned to play the organ with the organist of St. Casimir Parish of Philadelphia Jonas Gudelis-Hodell, sang in a choir, served in the parish church. Later he was an organist in Chicago, Mahanoy City, and Kingston.
He carried out cultural work wherever he worked – conducted choirs of Lithuanian Diasporas, put on concerts, staged operettas, popularised Lithuanian songs. Having become acquainted with Mikas Petrauskas in Chicago, he took part in the activities of the art society Birutė founded by Petrauskas, learned to sing and to play the piano with Mikas Petrauskas. In 1909, he played the role of the Old Vaidila [senior priest in heathen Lithuania] in Mikas Petrauskas opera Birutė. Later he directed the operetta Adomas ir Ieva [Adam and Eve] by Mikas Petrauskas, the sacred cantata Septyni Kristaus žodžiai [Seven Last Words of Christ] by Theodore Dubois in Scranton (Pennsylvania). In 1918, after he had founded the Society of Lovers of Art, he conducted the choirs of the Society, put on operettas my Mikas Petrauskas, performed in concerts together with him, and sang in operettas.
While in the USA, he eagerly sought to become a singer. He entered the Vocal Faculty of the Conservatory in Scranton. In 1917, he learned singing under Dr. L. Woodcock, who educated more than one well-known singer in America, and in 1920, he graduated from Mikas Petrauskas Conservatory in Boston without attending lectures.
Antanas Sodeika regards his acquaintance with Mikas Petrauskas as an event that had a vital importance to his further fate.
In 1920, together with Mikas Petrauskas, Antanas Sodeika returned to Lithuania, settled in Kaunas and took an active part in the musical life of the country. He participated in the activities of the Lithuanian Art Creators’ Association, was one of the founders of the Opera Theatre. On 31 December 1920, he played the role of Germont in the first performance of Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi at the Opera Theatre produced by Kipras Petrauskas who played the role of Alfred in it; the conductor was Juozas Tallat-Kelpša. In 1920–1944, Antanas Sodeika became a soloist at the State Theatre.
In 1921, he improved his professional skills in Rome, attending singing classes of Prof. A. Bustini and Enriko Rosati. He prepared the role of Rigoletto which he performed with great success in Kaunas on 3 November 1921. His roles of Demon in Anton Rubinstein’s opera The Demon, Onegin in Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, Figaro in Gioachino Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville were positively assessed. In 1924, he went to Italy, to Milan, to improve his professional skills again. Working hard and setting demanding requirements to himself, Antanas Sodeika improved his skills rapidly and became the leading baritone in Kaunas opera. His voice acquired sonority and depth, his vocal range expanded, a well-mastered vocal technique allowed him to convey and reveal his hero’s character, which he tried to study thoroughly, analysed the epoch, documents, and manuscripts.
Between 1944 and 1950, Antanas Sodeika was a soloist at the Lithuanian Opera and Ballet Theatre. He sang in the opera of Lithuania for more than 30 years, created more than 50 roles. His talent revealed itself most clearly and fully in singing dramatic parts. Rigoletto (Giuseppe Verdi’s Traviata), Jag (Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello), Scarpio (Giacomo Puccini’s Toska), Amonasr (Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida), Telramund (Richard Wagner’s Lohemgrin), Renat (Giuseppe Verdi’s A Masked Ball), Boris (Modest Mussorgsky’s Borisas Godunov), Igor (Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor) created by Antanas Sodeika went down in the history of the opera.
Music critics also assessed positively his Gianni Schicchi (Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi) Scarpio (Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca). Antanas Sodeika created memorable roles in Lithuanian opera productions: a Young Nobleman in Jurgis Karnavičius’ opera Gražina, Tauragis in Antanas Račiūnas’ opera Three Talismans, Gulbinas in Mikas Petrauskas’ opera Eglė, the Queen of the Grass Snakes, Dargailis in Stasys Šimkus’ opera A Village by the Manor (Pagirėnai).
He performed solo parties of musical compositions of large forms. He sang in the productions conducted by Napoleone Annovazzi, Emil Cooper, Franz von Hoeslin, and Nikolai Malko. He sang in the Latvian National Opera, performed solo in concerts in the USA (in 1924 and in 1928), in Rome, Milan and Riga. He recorded songs and opera arias on a disc in the USA, Riga and Kaunas.
Between 1945 and 1949, he taught at Kaunas Conservatory, in 1949 started teaching at the State Conservatory of Lithuania, between 1950 and 1951, Antanas Sodeika was Head of the Department of Solo Singing and headed the opera class till 1957, worked as a director. In 1957, he obtained the professorship. He trained a large circle of singers, including Julius Būtėnas, J. Vasionytė, Henrikas Zabulėnas. Elena Saulevičiūtė, Elena Čiudakova, Valentinas Adamkevičius, Marija Aleškevičiūtė and others also attended Antanas Sodeika’s singing class. In 1965, he began working as a consultant at the Department of Operatic Training.
In 1955, Antanas Sodeika played a supporting part in the film Blacksmith Ignotas’ Truth (based on Antanas Gudaitis-Guzevičius’ book), in 1958, he published his memoirs Mano kelias į muzikos meną [My Way to the Art of Music].
In 1931, Antanas Sodeika was awarded the 3rd Class Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas. In 1945, he was awarded an honorary tile of the Merited Artist, and in 1950, he was granted the title of the National Artist of the Republic.
Antanas Sodeika died on 12 September 1979 in Vilnius. He is buried in the Antakalnis Cemetery in Vilnius.
In 1984, a memorial plaque dedicated to Antanas Sodeika was unveiled on the house at 1 Kaštonų Str. in Vilnius, where the singer used to live.
Prepared by Aldona Juodelienė
1. Karaška Arvydas. Sodeika Antanas. Muzikos enciklopedija. Vilnius, 2007, T. 3, p. 381.
2. Karaška Arvydas. Sodeika Antanas. Visuotinė lietuvių enciklopedija. Vilnius, 2012, T. 22, p. 240.
3. Karosas-Karosevičius Antanas. Antanas Sodeika. – Karosas-Karosevičius Antanas. Pirmieji Lietuvos dainininkai. Vilnius, 1992, p. 56-61.
4. Sodeika Antanas. Mano kelias į muzikos meną: atsiminimai. Vilnius, 1958, 109  p.
5. Zubrickas Boleslovas. Sodeika Antanas. Zubrickas Boleslovas. Pasaulio lietuvių chorvedžiai: enciklopedinis žinynas. Vilnius, 1999, p. 571-572.
6. Antanas Sodeika. Parengė Jurgita Lazauskaitė, 2015, 2019 [žiūrėta 2019 07 22]. Prieiga per intenetą: http://www.vilnijosvartai.lt/personalijos/antanas-sodeika/
Tiefland – Sebastiano (1928, Kaunas)
Carmen – Escamillo (1924, Kaunas)
Prince Igor – Igor (1935, Kaunas)
Don Pasquale – Dr. Malatesta (1936, Kaunas)
Andrea Chénier – Gerard (1930, Kaunas)
Faust – Méphistophélès, (1920, Boston)
Faust – Valentin (1922, Kaunas)
Roméo et Juliette – Mercutio (1925, Kaunas)
„Gražina“ – Jaunas bajoras (1933, Kaunas)
„Radvila Perkūnas“ – Katkus (1937, Kaunas)
Pagliacci – Tonio (1922, Kaunas)
Cavalleria rusticana – Alfio (1925, Kaunas)
Les Huguenots – Nevers (1932, Kaunas)
The Great Friendship – Commissar (1947, Kaunas)
Boris Godunov – Boris (1930, Kaunas)
Dubrovsky – Troekurov (1929, Kaunas)
The Tales of Hoffmann – Lindorf, Coppélius, Dapertutto, Miracle (1925, Kaunas)
„Birutė“ – Senas vaidila (1909, Chicago)
„Adomas ir Ieva“ (1914, Pennsylvania)
„Velnias išradėjas“ – Belzebubas (1915, Brooklyn)
„Eglė žalčių karalienė – Gulbinas (1939, Kaunas)
Les cloches de Corneville – Gaspard (1919, Brooklyn)
La Gioconda – Barnaba (1929, Kaunas)
Madama Butterfly – Sharpless (1924, Kaunas)
Tosca – Scarpio(1924, Kaunas)
La bohème - Marcello (1927, Kaunas)
Il tabarro – Michele (1933, Kaunas)
Gianni Schicchi – Gianni Schicchi (1933, Kaunas)
„Trys talismanai“ – Tauragis (1936, Kaunas)
The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya – Fyodor Poyarok (1936, Kaunas)
Il barbiere di Siviglia – Figaro (1924, Kaunas)
Demon“ – Demon (1921, Kaunas)
Samson and Delilah – High Priest (1931, Kaunas)
„Pagirėnai“ („Kaimas prie dvaro“) – Spoksa (1941, Kaunas)
„Rigoletto“ – Rigoletto (1921, Kaunas)
La traviata – Germont (1920, Kaunas)
Il trovatore – Count di Luna (1929, Kaunas)
Un ballo in maschera – Renato (1926, Kaunas)
„Aida“ – Amonasro (1927, Kaunas)
Otello –Iago (1938, Kaunas)
I gioielli della Madonna – Rafaele (1928, Kaunas)
Eugene Onegin – Onegin (1923, Kaunas)
The Queen of Spades – Count Tomsky (1925, Kaunas)
The Queen of Spades – Prince Yeletsky (1925, Kaunas)
Lohengrin – Telramund (1926, Kaunas)
Tannhäuser – Wolfram (1930, Kaunas)