My report yesterday on the oldest working orchestral player brought a rejoinder from the Finnish soprano Anu Komsi that her singing teacher, Vera Froloff, gave her last recital at the age of 82. When I asked for more information, Anu’s husband, the conductor Sakari Oramo, sent me an account of Vera – a memory of one of the formative personalities who helped make Finland a world leader in classical music. Here it is:
Born 1913 Minsk, Belarus
Died 26 December 2008 Kokkola, Finland
The Froloff family emigrated to Finland in the turmoil of the October Revolution. Vera initially wanted to become a dancer, but the staff at the
Helsinki Music Institute (later Sibelius Academy) got her mind set on singing studies.
The Winter War 1939-40 drove Vera from Helsinki to the relative safety of Kokkola on the Finnish West Coast, as far from Russia as you can
possibly get in Finland. After finishing her studies there, she gave a Debut recital in Helsinki in 1945. The reviews were enthusiastic, her
coloratura singing was compared to birdsong in its natural ease and beauty.
In the 1950´s Vera performed at the Finnish National Opera as Gilda, Violetta and Queen of the Night.
On one occasion, Vera got ill on the eve of a premiere which created a stir in Helsinki. This abruptly ended her career at the
Finnish National Opera. “I should have told them one month in advance about falling ill, and one year in advance about
imminent death!”, she reminisced in her usual witty manner.
In Helsinki, Vera performed with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and sang Lied concerts both with George de Godzinsky (also
Shaljapin´s accompanist) and with her permanent pianist Ellen Nyberg (she also was from Kokkola; Anu and Sakari now own her grand piano, a beautiful Blüthner from 1935!)
Vera had a lyric coloratura voice with a placid, clear sonority and unfailing technique in figurations and highest tones.
She had a graceful, aristocratic appearance and was always impeccable, whether on stage or out in town.
As late as in 1995, at the age of 82, she sang coloratura arias in front of an enthralled audience with a bright youthful voice at a concert in Kokkola
especially organized to celebrate the publication of a CD compiled of her recordings through the decades.
Vera was a towering personality in Kokkola. She taught and influenced younger generations of singers (the Komsi sisters!!!) and influenced
greatly the cultural life in the area. In the early 70´s she directed and produced with her husband Vova in Kokkola a couple of opera performances .