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Theater & Opera

Sol Hurok - Russian Impresario and American Legend
 
Sol Hurok was born in Pogar, Chernigov Governorate, Russian Empire (nowadays Bryansk Oblast, Russia), and immigrated to the United States in 1906, during one of the waves of Jewish emigration from the empire following the tide of anti-semitism of the last quarter of the XIX century. 
 
In his new homeland, Hurok pursued the career of an impresario, founding his S. Hurok Presents management company. Within the next couple of decades, he managed to acquire many major performing artists as his clients, including such celebrities of the time as Marian Anderson, Irina Arkhipova, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Fyodor Chaliapin, Isadora Duncan, Michel Fokine, Margot Fonteyn, Horacio Gutiérrez, Anna Pavlova, Mstislav Rostropovich, Arthur Rubinstein, Isaac Stern, Galina Vishnevskaya, and Efrem Zimbalist!
 
He remained the sole manager of singer Marian Anderson for the whole duration of her career, spanning decades...
 
The legend of Hurok started with the famous (and controversial) Marian Anderson's Easter Sunday open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, that took place on April 9, 1939. The impresario was able to get the backing of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt herself and persuade conservative U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes to allow Anderson's performance.
 
The legend continued in the 50s and 60s, when Hurok, after 35 (!) years of unsuccessful attempts, finally succeeded to bring the Bolshoi Ballet to America for a two-months tour. He then amazed and delighted American ballet lovers by bringing the Kirov Academy of Ballet and the Igor Moiseyev Ballet Company. And, as a grande finale, he achieved the impossible by bringing the Bolshoi Ballet to the US again and at the very height of the Cuban Missile Crisis - the time when Americans were building fallout shelters in their backyards and the prospects loomed of a full-out nuclear war with the very country that the guests came from!
 
These feats of management and politics almost cost him his life. In 1972 a bomb planted by the Jewish Defense League, which opposed the tours of artists from the Soviet Union, went off in his office, killing one of his assistants and injuring Hurok and several others.
 
It was Hurok who organized the very first electronic music concert in Carnegie Hall, in 1970. Moreover, the performers, the now-famous First Moog Quartet, actually got together because of the impresario's request - he wanted to see how the Moog synthesizer would fare in a live concert.
 
In 1971 Sol Hurok was awarded the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit for his influence on American music.
 
On March 5,1974 Hurok was being chauffeured to a meeting with David Rockefeller to discuss a series of performances by Rudolf Nureyev, when he had a heart attack, which would later prove fatal...  During the funeral, the Carnegie Hall was almost packed full by more than 2000 people who came to say good bye to the legend...
 
Sources:
"The Last Impresario: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Sol Hurok"- Harlow Robinson
"What Sol Wrought". Time. April 27, 1959
 
 

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