Oscar Kamiоnsky, one of the prominent vocalists of the Russian opera scene at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who had a huge number of ardent admirers among the audience and imitators among singers, was born in Kiev in 1869 into a Jewish merchant family. The future artist learned to play the violin from childhood, and from the age of 12, he performed solo tenor violin in the students’ choir. Kamionsky moved to St. Petersburg in 1888 and was admitted to the conservatory. He was lucky to become a student of the talented teacher Stanislav Gabel. The talent of the young singer was noticed and supported by major figures of the national musical culture of that time - Anton Rubinstein, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Felix Blumenfeld. After studying at the conservatory for three years, Kamionsky, under the direction of Anton Rubinstein, left for Italy to continue his vocal art studies with the tutor Rossi.
The singer’s debut was in 1892 in Naples. He brilliantly, according to the contemporaries’ reminiscences, performed the part of Valentine in Faust by Charles Gounod. Kamionsky performed in Italian theatres for a year and then returned to Russia.
High vocal skills and distinctive artistry rather quickly made the young singer successful on the Russian opera stage. Twenty years of the singer's artistic life were associated with different opera and non-repertory theatres in Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov and Tiflis. The operatic repertoire of Kamionsky was significant - more than forty parts! Kamionsky could sing all parts after a couple of rehearsals! These were the requirements of provincial scene of that time. The part of Renato in the opera “Un Ballo in maschera” by Giuseppe Verdi was the singer’s outstanding success. It is accepted that Oscar did not possess a strong voice, hence of very beautiful timbre and wide range. He mastered the art of bel canto and mezza voce, paid great attention to the manner of the image execution (make-up, stage outfit, facial expressions), which was highly appreciated by the audience at all times.
In the role of Figaro in “The Barber of Seville” by Giacomo Rossini Kamionsky often performed in an ensemble with Italian singers, he was striking, straight and inspired his stage partners with his vocal energy. His Don Juan in the eponymously named opera by Mozart opera also remained in the memory of the audience as the pinnacle of Kamionsky vocal and stage art. Oscar recorded the best scenes from this opera on Pathe records, including the duet of Don Juan and Zerlina “La ci darem la mano” in partnership with his wife, singer Clara Bruhn (1876-1959). In 1904, he began giving lessons at the Kiev School of Music and Drama in 1904. In 1915, he quit the stage. Oscar died in Yalta in 1917 at the age of 47.
Kamionsky can be deservedly called the "The King of gramophone records". He made about 400 (!) recordings during the first decade of the 20th century. They were arias and duets from operas and comic operas, romances and folk songs. The impressive performance of Figaro's cavatina from “The Barber of Seville”, the aria of Count di Luna from “The Troubadour”, the aria of Renato aria from “Un ballo in maschera” by Verdi, the death scene of Valentine (opera “Faust” by Charles Gounod) are especially worthy of noting. Kamionsky brilliantly performed Neapolitan songs, lyrical romances by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Anton Rubinstein. Despite the technical imperfection, these recordings have retained the distinctness of his voice, mastery and interpretation reading.