Russian tenor Nikolai Baskov wants to conquer US

JOHN CARUCCI Associated Press Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Over the past decade, Nikolai Baskov has emerged as one of the biggest-selling recording artists in Russia.

He's a favorite of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and his performances -- with dramatic lighting and dazzling showmanship -- are becoming legendary there and in Europe.

Now, the rest of the world may be in Baskov's grasp. The classically trained vocalist has his eyes -- or more appropriately, voice -- on seizing the rest of the world with his powerful range.

"For me, really this is the beginning. Because I've accomplished so much in my country, I'm used to being received at a certain level, but I also appreciate a certain level of anonymity here when I'm in New York," he said in an intimate performance earlier this month. "The public perception of me has been really phenomenal. In America, if they love you, they love you unconditionally, which separates the U.S audiences and American audiences from any other audiences in the world."

Classically trained in Russia, Baskov turned down an offer to study in the United States at Julliard. That opportunity came during tough times in Moscow; Baskov opted to study at home. He also admitted he couldn't be away from his mother for that long.

"I love my mom more than anything else in the world," Baskov, 35, said.

"My mom made me believe since I was very young," he added. "She always told me that I was destined to be an artist."

His father was not as optimistic -- at least not at first. As a high-ranking officer in the Russian military, the elder Baskov saw a different life for his son. But as he began to perform, his father slowly became more comfortable with his son's dream. The support began in the early stages of his career and has grown throughout the years.

Now that he's an adult, he still stays very close to his parents.

"No matter where I am in the world, I call her," Baskov said. "And my father too."

The tenor's stratospheric rise to the top of the Russian charts began with a music video of the song "Caruso." It was picked up by every television outlet in Russia, and was played for months. Based on the popularity of that song and video, he began to perform, and quickly learned how to charm audiences with his charisma and stage persona.

His favorite artists include Barbara Streisand and Lady Gaga.

"I can't stop myself from watching Lady Gaga perform," Baskov says. "She makes music so interesting to watch."

Besides Gaga and Streisand, Baskov cites Italian crooner Mario Lanza as his main influence: "I admire everything about him, from the way he carries himself on stage to the way he sings."

In June, PBS ran Baskov's Moscow concert from the famed Luzhniki Arena. Earlier this month, that performance was released on CD and DVD as "Romantic Journey."

Baskov will tour North America early next year with dates in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Hartford, and other cities.

He will also perform in New York, which is a favorite.

"There is so much life here, and I love the shopping," he said.

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John Carucci covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/jcarucci_ap

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