Valentinas Adamkevičius (born 6 July 1925, in Kaunas – died 3 May 1976, in Vilnius), a Lithuanian singer, an opera soloist (lyric-dramatic tenor).
Valentinas Adamkevičius was one of the most unique and universal tenors in the history of the Lithuanian opera who sang lyrical, dramatic, heroic parts. He was a hard-working and a prolific artist extremely devoted to his profession who had a perfectly developed voice of pleasant timbre and a wide vocal range. In 1954-1976, he was one of the main tenors at the Opera House who created legendary roles of German, Othello, and Don Carlo.
He was born on 6 July, 1925 in Kaunas into a family of a bank employee. His father Jonas Adamkevičius and his Moscow-born mother Ona Masterkovaitė had two sons: Leonas Vytautas and Valentinas Kęstutis. Father was a passionate opera fan, learned to sing in a private studio with an Italian vocal pedagogue O. Marini at Kaunas Conservatoire. Hence, both sons were musical, learned to play the piano, the violin, and sang in the school’s choir. Encouraged by the conductor Vytautas Marijošius, Valentinas started learning to sing. At first he attended Jonas Butėnas’, Juozas Bieliūnas’ classes and in 1945 he joined Aleksandras Kačanauskas’ solo singing class at Kaunas Conservatory. In 1949, he started to learn in Kipras Petrauskas’ class. Valentines Adamkevičius improved rapidly, his voice matured and developed. In 1949, he made his debut at the Opera House as Don José in Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, prepared the role of Liutauras in Jurgis Karnavičius’ opera Gražina, Kavaradossi in Giacomo Puccini’s opera Toska. Upon graduating from the Conservatory in Vilnius in 1949, Valentinas Adamkevičius already had a reputation of an excellent performer, an artistic vocalist with a strong and well trained voice of pleasant timbre.
In 1950, encouraged by Kipras Petrauskas, Valentinas Adamkevičius left for Russia to improve his singing skills and until 1954 he was a soloist at Leningrad Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre (currently the Mariinsky Oopera and Ballet Theatre of Saint Petersburg). In November 1950, he debuted as Vladimir in Alexander Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, prepared the role of Kose in Meyerbeer’s opera Les Huguenots, sang the role of Charles VII, a successor to the French throne, in the opera The Maid of Orleans by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. One of his most outstanding achievements on the stage of Leningrad was Radamés in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida. Soon Valentinas Adamkevičius became known as one of the most gifted theatre soloists who had good vocal school and was particularly diligent. His opera repertoire was rapidly expending and becoming more and more various. He was frequently asked to perform leading roles.
He sang as Prince Sinodal in the opera The Demon by Anton Rubinstein, as Galicin in the opera Chovanshchina by Modest Pietrowicz Musorgski, as Alfred in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata, as Don José in Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen. He had excellent memory, learned his new parts quickly, and as he managed to master technically extremely complicated parts, he performed many complicated leading roles of different nature. His concert repertoire also broadened. He used to sing tenor parts in Verdi’s Requiem, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, take part in television programmes, concerts put on at the Philharmonic Society, radio recordings, sang several parts in the performances of Leningrad radio operas. While in Russia he corresponded with his teacher Kipras Petrauskas, felt his constant care. Close creative relationships established with the best theatre artists and conductors of that time continued after the singer had returned to Lithuania.
In the autumn of 1954, Valentinas Adamkevičius retuned to Vilnius and was a soloist at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre until 1976. The first theatre season became the year of great creative intensity for the performer – he prepared as many as eight new parts, including Rudolf in Giacomo Puccini’s opera Bohema, Faust in Charles Gounod’s opera Faust, Sobinin in Mikhail Glinka’s opera Ivan Susanin. He was irreplaceable on the opera stage, the only one who was able to sing all parts of lyrical dramatic tenor. When preparing a new part he worked very carefully and tirelessly, thought everything through to the last detail, studied sources of literature and the epoch thoroughly, listened to the recordings of music, trained constantly, broadened his horizons, took the remarks and requirements of stage directors and conductors into consideration. The singer performed 59 roles, the most notable of them being the role of German in Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the role of Othello in Guiseppe Verdi’s opera Othello, Don Carlos G. Verdi’s opera Don Carlos, that of Ferhad in the opera Legend About Love by Vytautas Barkauskas. Valentinas Adamkevičius was the main and often the only performer of these roles in the Lithuanian opera.
Valentinas Adamkevičius was a tireless participant in the intensive concert life of that time. His concert repertoire included compositions by both classical and modern authors, as well as such great works as Requiem by Guiseppe Verdi, Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and smaller compositions such as songs and romances. In 1965, after he had made acquaintance with the young conductor Jonas Aleksa, the singer started performing musical composiitns by modern composers and compositions that were not so often performed in Lithuania. He took part in the first performance of the scenic cantata Catulli Carmina by Carl Orffo, Stabat mater by Gioachino Rossini. He cooperated with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra from its very first days of existence, took part in concerts, prepared programmes of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, Joseph Haydn, George Frederic Handel.
Performing music of different centuries and styles developed the performer’s vocal, enriched the arsenal of the means of expression, and expanded the possibilities of voice. Critics wrote about a well-mastered vocal technique enabling the possibilities of voice to be comprehensively disclosed and colourful and convincing characters to be created. In the course of twenty years of his concert activities Valentinas Adamkevičius was an active promoter of music created by his Lithuanian contemporaries. He participated in almost all the congresses of Lithuanian composers of that time, in the festivals Music Autumn, author concerts, was the first performer of a great number of oratories, cantatas, vocal cycles and songs. He was the first to have performed Justinas Bašinkas’ six-song cycle After the Storm (Alfonsas Maldonis’ words), the cycle of romances by Rimvydas Žigaitis The Troubled Birds (Bronius Mackevičius’ words), the cycle of romances Will Look for you on Earth by Vytautas Klova (words by Janina Degutytė) and many other musical compositions. In 1955, Julius Juzeliūnas dedicated the Concerto for Voice and Orchestra to him. Almost every year the performer gave solo concerts in which he sang songs by Lithuanian composers, most often he cooperated with the pianist Gražina Ručytė. He performed in concerts held in different regions of Lithuania, included romances by Pyotr Tchaikovski, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Franz Schubert, arias from Russian and Italian operas, Czech, Spanish, Italian, Neapolitan, Slovakian and Japanese songs in his repertoire. He performed on tour in Leningrad (Saint Petersburg), Moscow, Yerevan, Baku, Minsk, Kiev, Tbilisi, Riga, Poland, Bulgaria, Germany, Yugoslavia, Rumania, India. A large part of his extensive repertoire was recorded on discs or magnetic tapes.
Valentinas Adamkevičius had a teaching job at the Lithuanian State Conservatory for almost 20 years. From 1956, he taught chamber singing, between 1964 and 1966 he headed the Department of Solo Singing. In 1967, the title of Associate Professor was conferred on him. Jonas Girijotas, Virgilijus Noreika, Eduardas Kaniava graduated from his chamber singing class, and Vytautas Bakas, Danguolė Juodikaitytė, Akvilė Kisielienė and others graduated from his opera singing class. Adamkevičius’ former student Danguolė Juodikaitytė, who later became his second wife, said about her former teacher the following: “The pedagogue was especially benevolent; he tried to impart all his knowledge and experience to his students. He applied different exercises to each student, took great interest in the nature of his/her voice. (…) He did his best to achieve that his student should learn the so-called deep breathing which released tension on the vocal cords as soon as possible. (…) He used to polish every note, phrase, he would not allow his students to force, demanded to produce a velvety sound, a coherent sound line, and, said that the most important thing was to understand what you were singing.” (Jūratė Vyliūtė, p. 131)
Valentinas Adamkevičius often organised student concerts, performances on television. He used to sing together with his students in the opera Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell (conductor Jonas Aleksas).
At the theatre and in his everyday life Valentines Adamkevičius was especially collegial, sincere and considerate to both his partners on the stage and his fellows in the journey through life. The opera singer Giedrė Kaukaitė recalls the following: “Valentinas Adamkevičius followed my first roles of Desdemona and Mimi with genuine warmth and sensitivity. He willingly revealed many secrets of the stage techniques, which were clear to an experienced singer and quite unknown to the beginner. He was the only one who knew how to take care of his partner.” (Jūratė Vyliūtė, p. 191)
Valentinas Adamkevičius died on 3 May 1976, in Vilnius. He is buried in Antakalnis Cemetery. The tombstone was created by the sculptor Antanas Žukauskas in 1985. The memory of the famous singer is perpetuated in a commemorative plaque unveiled on the house No. 14 in Antanas Vienuolis Street in Vilnius where the singer lived for several years.
Prepared by Aldona Juodelienė
1. Adamkevičiūtė Daina. Dainininkai – tai žmonės, kurių krūtinėse sukabinti varpai… : Valentinas Adamkevičius (1925-1976). Muzikos barai, 2016, Nr. 1-2, p. 2-7.
2. Bruveris Jonas. Lietuvos nacionalinis operos ir baleto teatras. Vilnius, 2006, p. 271-273
3. Juodpusis Vaclovas. Adamkevičius Valentinas. Muzikos enciklopedija, Vilnius, 2000, T. 1, p. 18.
4. Šilgalis Konstantinas. Gyvenimui palieku svajonę: [nekrologas operos solistui Valentinui Adamkevičiui]. Literatūra ir menas, 1976, gegužės 8, p. 6.
5. Vyliūtė Jūratė. Valentinas Adamkevičius. Vilnius, 1986, 230 p.
„Fra Diavolo“ – Lorenzo (1960)
„Legenda apie meilę“ – Ferchadas (1975)
Carmen – Don José (1949)
Prince Igor – Vladimir (1951)
„Lakme“– Gerald (1955)
Lucia di Lammermoor – Edgar (1971)
Treason – Erekle (1951)
„Ivan Susanin“ – Sobinin (1955)
„Faust“ – Faust (1955)
Zaporozhets za Dunayem – Andriy (1955)
„Gražina“ – Liutauras (1949)
Into the Storm – Antonov (1955)
„Duktė“ – Andrius (1960)
„Du kalavijai“ – Vaišbutas (1966)
„Pilėnai“ – Danila (1956)
„Pilėnai“ – Vienuolis / The Monk (1959)
„Paklydę paukščiai“ – Tadas (1967)
„Paklydę paukščiai“ – Pjeras (1967)
Pagliacci – Canio (1956)
Cavalleria rusticana – Turiddu (1956)
Les Huguenots – Cossé (1951)
Les Huguenots – The Monk (1951)
„Boris Godunov“ – False Dmitriy (1950)
„Boris Godunov“ – Jesuit (1950)
„Boris Godunov“ – The Boyar-in-Attendance (1950)
„Boris Godunov“ – Prince Vasiliy Ivanovich Shuysky (1951)
Khovanshchina – Golitsin (1952)
Dubrovsky – Vladimir Dubrovsky (1952)
The Tales of Hoffmann – Hofmann (1960)
Dido and Aeneas – Aeneas (1968)
The Love for Three Oranges – Truffaldino (1963)
Tosca – Cavaradossi (1950)
La bohème – Rudolfo (1954)
La fanciulla del West – Johnson (1968)
Aleko – Young Gypsy (1951)
Francesca da Rimini – Paolo (1953)
The Maid of Pskov – Matuta (1952)
„Sadko” – The Indian guest (1954)
The Demon – Prince Sinodal ( 1952)
The Bartered Bride – Jenikas / Jenik (1950)
Ivan Bolotnikov – The Duke Shakhovskoy (1952)
The Decembrists – Kochovsky (1953)
Iolanta – Count Vaudémont (1950)
The Maid of Orleans – King Charles VII (1951)
The Maid of Orleans – Raymond
The Enchantress – Balakin (1951)
The Queen of Spades – Herman (1954)
The Golden Cockerel – Astrologer (1951)
Macbeth – Macduff (1951)
„Aida“ – Radames (1952)
Don Carlos – Don Carlos (1959)
La traviata – Alfredo (1952)
Rigoletto – The Duke (1958)
Otello – Otello (1955)
Otello – Cassio (1955)
Un ballo in maschera – Gustavo (1956)
„Lohengrin” – Lohengrin (1969)
The Fountain of Bakhchisarai
Oratorium „Ąžuolas” (ž. P. Gaulės)
Domine memento, oratorium
Songs About Homeland
Concerto for voice and symphony orchestra
Oratorio „Vakaro misterija” (w. E. Mieželaitis)
Ballade „Motina” (w. Just. Marcinevičius)
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)
The First Walpurgis Night, Op. 60
„Aleksandr Matrosov” oratorio
„Song of the Forests” oratorio
„Po audros” / After Storm (w. A. Maldonis)
Four Sonnets / Keuri sonetai (w. V. Mykolaitis-Putinas)
„Nuostabus dalykas gyvent” / It’s a Wonderful Thing – To Live (D. Andajaua)
Eight sutartinės for voice and folk instruments orchestra
„Žemėje ieškosiu tavo bruožų” / I Will Look for your Features on Earth (w. J. Degutytė)
„Meilės poema” / Love poem
„Medžiai / Trees (w. F. Garsia Lorca)
„Įsiklausyk” for tenor and flute
„Avinuko pėdos” / The Lamb’s Footsteps (w. O. Baliukonytė, V. Rudokas, S. Geda)
„Neramūs paukščiai” / Restless Birds (w. B. Marcinkevičius)