If there were a Russian version of the Grond Ole Opry, Ivan Rebroff should be on its stage. He's got the big voice, the flashy clothes, the shrewdly simple music, the solid back-up group, the coy stage patter. Too bad he was born and still lives in Germany, not Russia.
Still, that shouldn't stop him. He looks like Boris Godunov. During the course of his first Washington concert, Saturday at the DAR, he wore a long fur coat and cap, two princely Russian outfits, and, for his numbers from "Fiddler on the Roof," peasant garb.
He must have made a smashing Tevye (which he performed in Paris for three years). He knows how to use a stage. He was excessively amplified Saturday, hand mike and all, but he said he wanted us to feel we were around a fireplace with him, not in a vast hall. He sang several songs as he walked among the aisles, without a mike. Just like the gang gathered around the fireplace, he doesn't sing with total precision.
Generally, however, he's far too formidable for me to consider roasting chestnuts on an open fire with him. The falsetto pyrotechnics he tacks on to Russian folk tunes become a bit tiresome. His sound effects and his violin playing worked well enough Saturday, but around a fireplace, no one likes a show-off.