A century ago, one of the future great artists of the Soviet Union, singer and actor Georg Karlovich (Kaarelovich) Ots, was born. It became a symbol of that great era when the citizens of the USSR lived in a single state, when there were no ethnic conflicts, when they honored the memory of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War, and from reproducers throughout the vast country classical works and pop music of the highest quality sounded.
The future artist was born on March 21, 1920 in Petrograd. His father Karl (Kaarel) Ots, an Estonian by nationality, had the talent of an opera singer, but he did not make his way to the stage immediately - at first he had to work as a telegraph operator on the railway; mother is a teacher named Lydia. Parents did not particularly think about how to name the boy - he was born in St. George's Hospital, they called him George. Soon the family moved to Tallinn.
Karl Ots managed to become a professional singer in the theater "Estonia". His son grew up in an atmosphere of music. When in the first grade, the teacher asked the boy to perform children's songs, he sang the aria of Cavaradosi from the opera Tosca in Italian. Of course, music and theater were constantly present in his life, but even more music attracted him to sports. Young George was engaged in fencing, basketball, and achieved particular success in swimming - he twice became the champion of Estonia in this sport.
Karl Ots did not find enough talent in his son to recommend him to follow in his father's footsteps and become a singer. On the contrary, he believed that George should get a more "solid" profession. There was not enough money to study at the university. In 1939, the young man went to a military school (it was free), where he studied for a year. In 1940, Soviet power was proclaimed in Estonia, the republic became part of the USSR. This has given new opportunities to many young people. Georg entered the Tallinn Technical Institute. He was attracted to the profession of an architect and, perhaps, he would have achieved success in this field, but ...
Thunderstorm 1941 dramatically changed the life of every person in the country ...
George was drafted into the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Army. In August 1941, conscripts, along with wounded soldiers and thousands of civilians, were sent by sea from Tallinn (to which the enemy was already approaching) to Leningrad. Ots was on the ship "Siberia". During the transition, the Nazis attacked a caravan of ships from the air. Sibir also suffered: the ship caught fire.
The wounded were loaded into boats. Ots had a life belt, but he gave it to the Pole, a companion in misfortune. He grabbed some log in the water, but then this simple means of salvation yielded to another person. He hoped for an excellent ability to swim. But the waves were huge, the water was very cold, and fascist bombing continued from the air.
Ots's parents received news of the death of their son. George's young wife, Margot, considering herself free, subsequently started an affair with one of the occupiers and, after the liberation of Estonia, fled with him to Canada.
... One of the sailors of the Soviet mine minesweeper, who was in the Gulf of Finland, noticed a young man exhausted by the struggle with the waves and picked him up on board. He did not know that he was saving a man whom the whole country would recognize in a few years.
So began the creative journey
Serviceman Georg Ots was sent to the construction battalion, at the Zyryanka station, about 200 km from Chelyabinsk. At first, the service consisted of logging operations. Soon, after completing short-term courses, the young man was appointed commander of a platoon of anti-tank artillery with the rank of junior lieutenant. At the end of January 1942 he went directly to the front. But there was no need to fight.
At this time, directors Kaarel Ird and Prid Pildroos created ensembles for performances in front of soldiers of the Red Army at the fronts and in hospitals. At one of the railway stations, the path of these Estonian artists and the unit in which Ots served crossed. Ird and Põldroos needed talented guys. They decided that the son of opera singer Karl Ots would be a great find for the ensemble, and asked to be introduced to him.
At first, George himself was modest, saying that he could not sing. Worried what colleagues would say. In an interview, he later recalled that at first he was even offended by such a proposal. But he was convinced that the song is also weapon. The issue of translation was resolved, and Ots left for Yaroslavl, where ensembles formed. Then there were numerous speeches to soldiers in different cities and villages - at first he sang in the choir, then became a soloist. There he met his future second wife - the dancer Asta Saar.
After the war
In the spring of 1944, in Tallinn, still occupied by enemies, one acquaintance informed Karl Ots that he had heard his son’s voice on the radio. He did not believe - he considered his firstborn to be long dead, and even incapable of singing. But soon doubts were dispelled: in the fall Tallinn was liberated. Georg returned to his homeland (the ensemble was disbanded by that time).
Then Ots Jr. worked at the Estonia Theater, which was badly damaged by enemies but quickly rebuilt. He studied at the Tallinn College of Music (he graduated in two years instead of four), then at the conservatory.
The father, who previously did not want to recognize his son’s talent, was forced to agree that he learned to masterfully own the voice. Repeatedly they performed together - the tenor Carla was perfectly combined with the baritone of George.
At first, Georg had to sing in the choir of the theater. The case helped to get the first significant role. During the production of Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, the artist who was supposed to play the part of Zaretsky fell ill, and Ots was asked to replace him. In a few years, he will become one of the best Onegins of the Soviet Union. In 1950, he received the Stalin Prize of the second degree for the role of the main Pushkin hero.
Two years later, Ots was awarded the Stalin Prize of the third degree for acting. He starred in the film “Light in Coordi” as the main character, Paul Runge. This film is in the spirit of the time: collective farms are being created in post-war Estonia, but gangs are opposing the new life. The hero played by Ots is a former farm laborer, a soldier who returned from the war, a national defender opposed to killers and arsonists. During the filming of the film, there was a scene where the main character must plow the ground. For this, an understudy was invited. But Oats was indignant: “How will I sing about work, but will it be different?” and he undertook to plow.
Georg Karlovich sang in classical operas: La Traviata, Don Giovanni, Faust, Othello, Boris Godunov, Carmen, Pagliacci, Aida and many others, as well as in operas by Soviet composers dedicated to the Great Patriotic War: "Young Guard" and "The Story of a Real Man." His talent was also manifested in the operettas: Free Wind, Bayadera, Maritsa, etc. But if we talk about his most striking parts, this is perhaps the opera Demon by A.G. Rubinstein and the operetta Princess of the Circus ( "Mr. X") I. Kalman. Films were made based on them, and it was the film “Mr. X” that brought Ots all-Union fame. However, he himself was dissatisfied with this work, but even such a great singer as M. Magomayev did not dare to sing Mr. X's aria after Ots.
In addition to parts in operas and operettas, the artist performed many military and lyrical songs. These songs still sound. For example, the piercing “Eh, the roads” (music by A. Novikov, lyrics by L. Oshanin) are the very front lines on which there is no time even to mourn for a dead friend, since “the road rushes further, gathers dust, swirls”. Or “Buchenwald Nabat” (music by V. Muradeli, lyrics by A. Sobolev) with his appeal to all mankind: “People of the world, be three times as fast as possible, take care of the world, take care of the world!” And the song “Do the Russians want war?” (musician E. Kolmanovsky, lyrics by E. Evtushenko) he sang in five languages.
It is not possible to list all songs performed by Ots. Here are just a few: “I can’t tell you on your birthday ...”, “Sormovskaya lyric”, “My Black Sea”, “Sevastopol waltz”, “I love you, life”, “Hear me, good”, “City over the free Neva ”... The whole country knew and loved them. He sang many Soviet songs, as well as Russian romances, in Estonian and Finnish.
Fight against death
... Meanwhile, in the personal life of G. Ots, changes have come. In 1964, his wife Asta divorced him. A woman with gypsy blood could not come to terms with the fact that she remained only a corps de ballet dancer, and her husband became known not only in the USSR, but also far abroad. A marriage in which a son and daughter were born, and two more children were adopted, broke up after twenty years. Georg married one of the first Soviet fashion models, Ilona. She quit her career and devoted her life to the family. In this marriage, the daughter of Marianne was born. But, unfortunately, her father did not have time to raise her.
In 1972, the artist became ill right during the performance. He had previously suffered severe headaches, but he hid them from the public. The diagnosis was scary - a malignant brain tumor.
Then for three years there was a struggle with death. Georg Ots was very courageous. During this time, he underwent eight heavy operations. Maybe the treatment could be more radical, maybe he would live longer if he refused to work. But worse than death for him were loss of voice and departure from the scene.
Ots made his choice - he decided to devote all the remaining time to art and manage to do as much as possible. He joked that he could now play the role of Rigoletto without makeup in the opera of the same name. At the last concerts he went on stage wearing black glasses - otherwise it was impossible to hide the traces of operations. He often had to go backstage, where he was given an injection of an anesthetic drug. The singer sought to ensure that the audience and listeners did not know about his suffering.
Georg Karlovich dreamed of finishing work on the production of the opera Don Giovanni. At a recent rehearsal, he told his colleagues: “Follow the music of Mozart.” The last public concert of Ots took place on January 16, 1975. And he had a chance to sing for the last time before the doctors and nurses who were preparing him for the next operation.
On September 5, 1975, the performance, which was staged at the Estonia Theater, was suddenly interrupted. The death of the People's Artist of the USSR was announced. He was 55 years old. Almost all of Tallinn went to bury him.
Unfortunately, other times have come. In post-Soviet Estonia, at first they tried to delete the name of George Ots from stories, oblivion. He was declared an "agent of the NKVD," "an accomplice of the invaders," "the Kremlin nightingale." However, it later turned out that among Estonian cultural figures, another figure of this scale simply could not be found. And oblivion gave way to half recognition.
Outwardly, this, of course, looks like a real recognition - both the street was named after him, and the hotel on the island of Saaremaa sung by him, and the film "Georg" were shot. Events were planned in honor of his anniversary (although, for obvious reasons, canceled).
But in reality, not all songs sung by Georg Ots can be sounded in modern Estonia, many of them are forbidden, since they are too Soviet, communist. The Estonian authorities promised to erect a monument to the artist in front of the Estonia Theater by the 90th anniversary, then by the 100th anniversary, but it still hasn’t appeared.
Modern biographers write that, supposedly, Ots was not Soviet, but “adapted” and “survived”, like all Estonians. True, such maxims look like opportunism on the part of their authors - how else to survive in the "young European democracy" if you do not kick the Soviet past and expose Soviet cultural figures as almost victims of the "regime"?
It is better to turn to the words of Georg Karlovich himself:
The singer may be stern, courageous, tender, lyrical on stage, but he never dares to be false.
This is the best answer for those who first tried to present Ots as a “Kremlin agent,” and then as an “adaptable one.” Yes, he, when necessary, went to the Red Army to fight the Nazis. Yes, he sang Soviet patriotic songs, and not one of his songs was performed out of tune. Yes, of course, in Russian. Yes, he was the son of his time, his era and his great country. These facts are extremely inconvenient for Estonian chauvinists, who are still hostile to the great artist.
But is it not better to throw this senseless chauvinism into a historical garbage dump? And listen to the performance of George Ots "Buchenwald Nabat" and "Do the Russians want war?"