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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Pogar, Chernigov Governorate, Russian Empire [now Pogar, Bryansk Oblast, Russia]
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameSolomon Isaievich Hurok

Mini Bio (1)

Sol Hurok was the legendary impresario who made the impossible breakthrough by bringing the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet to America During the Cuban Missile crisis. At that time he managed to separate the Russian art and culture from the Soviet politics of the day.

He was born Solomon Israilevich Gurkov on April 9, 1888, in Pogar, near Kharkov, Russia (now Kharkiv, Ukraine). He was the third son in a traditional Russian-Jewish family. His father, Israil Gurkov, was a retail trader. Young Hurok was a good balalaika player, albeit he was largely self-taught. He also worked for his father's business. At the age of 18, he was sent to study at the Kharkov Trade School, but instead he used all his money to emigrate to America in May, 1906, together with his girlfriend, Tamara Shapiro. They married in 1908 and had a daughter. In America, he changed his name to Sol Hurok, and learned English in addition to his native Russian and Yiddish. He was a peddler, streetcar conductor, bottle-washer, and hardware salesman before becoming the foremost impresario of his time. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1914.

Sol Hurok was a very inventive show promoter. In 1913, he inaugurated the popular concert series "Music for the Masses." By his own estimation, Hurok represented about four thousand artists and companies. His work was focused mainly on the Russian stars of music, opera, and ballet. He represented such performers as Efrem Zimbalist Sr., David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan, Viktor Tretyakov, Valeri Klimov, Mstislav Rostropovich, opera singers Feodor Chaliapin Sr., Yelena Obraztsova, Irina Arkhipova, Galina Vishnevskaya, Zara Dolukhanova, ballet dancers Mikhail Fokin, Anna Pavlova, Isadora Duncan, Galina Ulanova, pianists Artur Rubinstein, Svyatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and also brought pianist Van Cliburn to Russia, among many others.

In 1935, in Paris, Hurok was introduced to singer Marian Anderson by the pianist Rubinstein. He was very impressed with her talent and organized her concerts in the United States. At that time any black performer could not be welcomed by most "elitist" concert halls in America. Sol Hurok managed to overcome that; he staged an open air performance for Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939. Anderson sang to the crowd of 75 thousands with such a tremendous success, that she became an overnight celebrity, and was invited to the White House by the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

During the 1920s and 30s, Hurok managed American tours of the Diaghilev's Ballet Russe and also the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. In the 30s, 40s, and 50s, he brought theatrical companies from Europe, Russia, and Israel, such as Habima Players, Moscow Art Theatre, Comédie Française, and the Old Vic, among others. On one occasion, Hurok was asked by Iosif Stalin to "Bring Feodor Chaliapin back to Moscow." Stalin promised big money and glory to many famous Russian émigrés if they return, but Hurok's answer to Stalin was "No." In 1946 Hurok published his autobiography, 'Impresario', and the book was later adapted into film Tonight We Sing (1953) by director Mitchell Leisen.

Hurok's major achievements in the 60s were the impeccably organized international tours of the Bolshoi Theatre with it's famous large-scale Russian operas and ballets. He later organized numerous international tours for the Kirov Ballet of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Russia. He also brought the Moscow Art Theatre and the 'Beriozka' ensemble on several tours to the United States. Hurok made the impossible breakthrough by bringing the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet to America During the Cuban Missile crisis. At that time he managed to separate the Russian art and culture from the Soviet politics of the day.

In 1972 Sol Hurok was injured by explosion of a bomb planted in his office, one of his staff receptionists was killed, several more were injured. However, Hurok continued his work on Russian - American projects, such as his Rudolf Nureyev project involving sponsorship from David Rockefeller. Hurok died of a heart attack en route to a meeting with David Rockefeller on March 5, 1974, in New York. The service was held at the Carnegie Hall, where thousands came, including many internationally renown performers. The last word was said by Hurok's protégé Marian Anderson.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Family (1)

Spouse Emma Runitch (17 July 1935 - 5 March 1974)  (his death)
Tamara (Mary) Shapiro (1908 - 1935)  (divorced)  (1 child)

Trivia (6)

One of the world's foremost impresarios.
Grandfather of Peter Hyams, Danna Hyams, & Nessa Hyams.
Former father-in-law of Barry Hyams.
Upon his death, his remains were interred at Temple Israel Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, Westchester County, New York.
Great-grandfather of John Hyams, Chris Hyams, & Nick Hyams.
Father, with Tamara Shaprio, of Ruth Hurok-Lief.

Personal Quotes (4)

[on his clients] If they're not temperamental, I don't want them. It's in the nature of a great artist to be that way. There's something in them - some warmth, some fire - that projects into an audience and makes it respond. Give me the temperamental artist every time.
How much do you love this attraction or that personality? How much do you owe the American public? Those are the important things. The money you think about later.
When people don't want to come, nothing will stop them.
An impresario is a man who discovers talent, who promotes it, who presents it, and who puts up the money and takes the risk. That's my main work, which is a lot different from a mere agent, a booker, a fellow who works strictly on percentage.

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