(b Yelizavetgrad [now Kirovograd], 3/15 Nov 1806; d St Petersburg, 28 Feb/12 March 1878). Russian bass. His date of death is often given incorrectly as 27 February/11 March or 2/14 March, the latter being the date of his burial. He first sang in a church choir, at the same time teaching himself the guitar; he was also taught the clarinet by a friend. In 1826 he was taken into Zhurakhovsky's travelling company, making his début in Yelizavetgrad in C. A. Cavos's The Cossack Poet, and shortly after joining the troupe of Ivan Fyodorovich Stein: here he was much influenced by working with the great actor Mikhail Shchepkin. Continuing his self-education, with help from Cavos in singing and Osip Hunke for piano and theory, he made rapid progress, singing in various different operatic genres and acting in plays. In 1830 Petrov made his St Petersburg début, soon winning wide recognition for his talents. At the première of A Life for the Tsar (1836) he set a tradition for the interpretation of Ivan Susanin with a performance of overwhelming dramatic power: Glinka himself recounted how the chorus of Poles set upon Petrov so violently that he had genuinely to defend himself. Other roles written for Petrov and created by him include M. I. Glinka's Ruslan (1842), the Miller in Alexander Dargomïzhsky's Rusalka (1856), Oziya in A. N. Serov's Judith (1863), Vladimir in Serov's Rogneda (1865), Leporello in Dargomïzhsky's The Stone Guest (1872), Ivan the Terrible in Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's The Maid of Pskov (1873), Varlaam in Modest Musorgsky's Boris Godunov (1874), Prince Gudal in Anton Rubinstein's The Demon (1875) and the Mayor in P. I. Tchaikovsky's Vakula the Smith (1876). In April 1876 the Mariinsky Theatre held a celebration to mark his 50th anniversary on the stage: he was presented with a gold medal by the tsar and a diamond-studded gold wreath, on each leaf of which was engraved the name of one of the 100 operas in which he had sung. For Petrov's jubilee Tchaikovsky wrote his Nicolay Nekrasov cantata, To Touch the Hearts of Men.
From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.