He was 19 when he first performed, at an international youth music festival in Helsinki, the Finnish capital. In 1962, at the age of 20, Magomayev first appeared in Moscow where he performed within the frameworks of the Days of Azerbaijani Culture. He sang two musical pieces (“He chose to sing arias from Gounod’s Faust, and the song Do the Russians Want War?”) in a gala-concert on the USSR’s main stage, the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, and became a celebrity on a spur of the moment. A year later he gave his first solo concert in the Moscow Tchaikovsky Concert Hall to a full house and became a soloist of the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. Muslim earned fame in the USSR as an opera singer with Rossini’s “Barber of Seville”. He also became known for his arias from Puccini’s “Tosca”, Hajibeyov’s “Koroghlu” and “Shah Ismayil”, which was composed by his grandfather.
In 1964–1965 Muslim was on probation in the La Scala theatre in Milan, but turned down the invitation to sing in the Moscow Bolshoi Theater upon his return. Instead, the singer turned to popular music, becoming a pop idol for several generations of music lovers in the Soviet Union. Muslim Magomayev’s popularity in the USSR was overwhelming. He quickly became a cult figure and gave three concerts a day filling out huge arenas all across the Soviet Union, while his albums sold millions.
In 1966 and 1969 Magomayev performed in Paris Olympia with great success. The director of Olympia Bruno Coquatrix offered him a contract, and Magomayev was seriously considering an opportunity to pursue international career, but Ekaterina Furtseva refused to grant the Ministry of Culture’s permission, claiming that it needed Magomayev to perform at governmental concerts. In 1969 he received MIDEM Gold Disc Award in Cannes for the album sales of over 4,5 million units. In 1973, at the very young age of 31, Muslim was awarded the Soviet Union’s highest artistic title: People’s Artist of the USSR.