The great Lithuanian lirico-spinto tenor Virgilijus KÄ™stutis Noreika (1935 - 2018) was born in Å iauliai, Lithuania. In 1958, he graduated with honors from the Lithuanian Conservatoire, where he studied singing in the class of another great Lithuanian tenor Kipras Petrauskas. Next year, in 1959, Noreika debuted in the Lithuanian Opera where he performed Alfredo in Verdi's La traviata, one of Noreika's favorite and most frequently performed roles. In 1965-66, he was the first in the post-war Lithuania to go to internship at La Scala where he mastered six roles in operas including the part of Pinkerton which he sang at that famous Opera House. Later the singer appeared on the stage of La Scala several more times with the Moscow Bolshoi that was on tour in Milan. He had been repeatedly invited to become a member of the Bolshoi but he chose to stay in Vilnius. Later, in 1970, he became the youngest Peopleâ€˜s Artist of the USSR (the highest artistic award in the former state) but, in spite of many invitations from Metropolitan, San Francisko Opera, Liceu Barcelona and many others, Noreika remained cordoned off from the West during his long blooming years. Later he sang in Staatsoper Berlin, OpÃ©ra National de Paris, Teatro ColÃ³n in Buenos Aires, Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, Lithuanian Opera of Chicago, and more than 30 others. Noreika's creative biography comprises more than 40 operatic roles: Cavaradossi, Faust, Rodolfo from La bohÃ¨me, and finally, in his mature years, Otello, to name a few. In 1976 â€“ 1991 he was the artistic director of the Lithuanian Opera, in 1993 â€“ 94 he taught at the Academy of Latin American Singing in Karakas (Venezuela), since 1976 Noreika was a professor at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (Edgaras Montvidas, Sergej Larin (whose tomb now is close to his teacherâ€˜s), Kristian Benedikt, MerÅ«nas Vitulskis and many others were among his students.)
Noreika performed more than 600 solo concerts, recorded 20 phonographic records and CDs. In order to honor his achievements, the First International Virgilijus Noreika Competition for Singers was organised in 2017. The competition will take place every four years around the birth date of Noreika.
The Edgardoâ€˜s aria â€˜Tombe degli avi miei...fra poco a me ricoveroâ€˜ from Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti (recorded in 1971) is sang by Noreika in a warm, plaintive and genuinely mournful manner. Ken Benson in his article â€˜The Importance of Being Edgardoâ€™ (Opera News, March 2011) includes Noreika into the list of 12 best tenors who sang Edgardo in the 20th century in Metropolitan (despite the fact that Noreika has never sung there!).
Noreika died a few days before this video was published on youtube. On the burial day, the Antakalnio cemetary in Vilnius was filled with the crowds of his admirers and the sounds of his finest recordings. The Edgardoâ€™s aria was the last one before his coffin came to rest. â€˜Tombs of my ancestors ... I will soon be shelteredâ€™.
A fantastic collection of Noreikaâ€˜s golden recordings is available at