The crowd sat in respectful silence as Sergey Zakharov answered questions about his long and eventful life. The room at the Russian Cultural Institute was brightly lit and occupied enough space to sit about two hundred devoted fans. I emphasise sit, as many of them were too old to stand for long.
“What is the greatest passion of your life? “, asked an Octogenerian fan.
“Women” he replied, with reverence and a hint of sensual anticipation.
I assume from this answer that Sergey is not married at the moment, as such an answer would land most husbands in hot water, and I almost expected him to follow this with a statement that he would be happy to make love to any woman in the audience after the show – “ No, I mean it, really, any one, yes, I love all women”
He is certainly very well preserved for a man of 62 years; the figure is trim, the face tanned, the teeth white as Siberian snow and the hair as thick as Archangel forests and black as Caucasian coal.
Sergey was accompanied by his lifelong pianist, a man who made no pretence at youthful looks or vigour, but who could certainly make magic from the keyboard.
The first song began with a melodramatic trill from the piano – then a thunderous basso profundo shout and I swear that weaker hearts than mine must have missed a dangerous couple of beats. From this cannonade beginning there poured a Gypsy staccato series of love exclamations and a clapping chorus akin to a military march that had every toe tapping and every arthritic hand gently meeting.
When Sergey sings of love, you can tell he means it, and his dancing Gypsy rhythms are compulsive and his voice is always thunder loud. As each song ends he shouts a great full stop of a grunt.
What a beast still lurks ‘neath that well preserved frame!
I was enthralled, I wanted to rise up and march across Siberia like a Decembrist fiancé to find and comfort her hopeless insurrectionist’s soul.
As Sergey Zakharov’s voice and heart swelled with emotion so did ours. I have misled you about the age of the audience – there were young as well as old. Some were as young as fifty and I spotted at least two 40 year olds trying to look older.
As Sergey sang, so like the great Italian Caruso, his arms and hands rose and fell in shapes of sinewy and voluptuous caresses. And like Caruso, his voice was mellow and deep, silken and tremendous, and like a good Romany it was also rhythmic and energetic. Eminem himself would have been proud of the way Sergey’s hand chopped the air and made way for his lyrics.
Then I closed my eyes and found myself back in the silent movies of the 1920’s, the piano raced along or stopped suddenly and a great jarring crescendo of a chord heralded the arrival of our hero. The lady swooned.