I love reading about Waterville Valley in the news – especially stories about the unique individuals who live and work in our small community. Check out this story about Vladimir Popov. Vlad works at Waterville Valley Resort’s ski check in winter, and at the Snows Mountain Chairlift in summer. He used to work with the greenskeeping crew at Waterville Valley Golf Course.
Businessman Bob Dever knows more than business; he knows opera. We are fortunate Bob was on the scene when Vladimir Popov broke out in song at an Eastern Ski Writers Association meeting at Waterville Valley Resort in central New Hampshire last weekend. I was there also, working the point and shoot video camera.
Here is Bob’s report:
We have all met them along the way – those men and women whose life experiences and adventures are so different from what most of us see as normal that we usually step back a bit and wonder – “would I have had the nerve to do that if I were him.”
In the early 1980’s a 34 year old Russian singer defected to the West while studying opera and voice in Italy. Eight years later, after a performance at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center, Vladimir Popov received his US citizenship papers from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The Trenton born Justice Scalia is a well-known opera affectionado.
Today Mr. Popov, fur hat in place, operates the ski check at Waterville Valley Ski Resort in central New Hampshire.
At a meeting of the Eastern Ski Writers Association last weekend a group of us were lucky enough to hear that Mr. Popov’s vocal skills are still exemplary. When he defected, newspaper reports identified him as a tenor. Today, age may have deepened his voice somewhat but not diminished it, he sounds more like a bass to me – but with my tin ear what do I know.
What a journey for him though. He has performed at LaScala in Milan, Covenant Garden in London, The Vienna State Opera House, Moscow’s Bolshoi, and at New York’s Metropolitan among others. Note – for those of you not familiar with the big time venues of this over four hundred year old art form that list above would correspond to Aspen, Courchevel, Cortina d’ampezzo, and San Moritz were we talking skiing.
Among the roles are ski check operator has sung are the Caliph in Puccini’s Turandot, a troubled Spaniard in Bizet’s Carmen, and Herman in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. In Verdi’s Aida, the opera that proceeded his visit with Justice Scalia, he was Radames, the Captain of the Egyptian Guard, loved by two women. You can probably figure out that one ends badly.
A bit of a bull of a man, he told us that he stays in shape not only by lifting skis but he also does 700 pushups a day.
How does one get from Russia to Waterville Valley? Think a familiarization with the cold (remember he’s from Russia), a love of winter sports, and an American wife. Mr. Popov says he is retired today but one would never know that after witnessing the lines outside of the ski check.
Does he still sing professionally? I didn’t get to ask him that question but a google search did turn up a performance as an old gypsy in Verdi’s Il Trovatore in June 2012.
While doing some research for this posting I realized that I have, unknowingly, heard this man sing. For years I have had subscription series to both the Philadelphia Opera Company and to the Kennedy Center. Our guy’s list of performance include operas that I have seen. I wish I had known.
Listen to the attached video and be enthralled.