Elena Obraztsova

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Elena Obraztsova
Elena Obraztsova cropped.jpg
Obraztsova at the Kremlin, 2000
Native name
Елена Образцова
Yelena Vasiliyevna Obraztsova

7 July 1939
Died12 January 2015(2015-01-12) (aged 75)
OccupationOpera singer (mezzo-soprano)
Awards Hero of Socialist Labor

Elena Vasiliyevna Obraztsova (Russian : Елена Васильевна Образцова; 7 July 1939 – 12 January 2015) was a Soviet and Russian mezzo-soprano. [1] She was awarded the People's Artist of the USSR in 1976 and Hero of Socialist Labour in 1990.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

A mezzo-soprano or mezzo (, ; Italian pronunciation: [ˈmɛddzo soˈpraːno] meaning "half soprano") is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range lies between the soprano and the contralto voice types. The mezzo-soprano's vocal range usually extends from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e. A3–A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4; 220–880 Hz). In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the F below middle C (F3, 175 Hz) and as high as "high C" (C6, 1047 Hz). The mezzo-soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic mezzo-soprano.

Peoples Artist of the USSR award

People's Artist of the USSR, also sometimes translated as National Artist of the USSR, was an honorary title granted to artists of the Soviet Union.



As a child, Obraztsova lived in Leningrad through the severe long siege (more than 870 days) during World War II. [2] In 1948, at the age of nine, she began singing in the children's chorus of the Pioneers Palace in Leningrad. [3]

Siege of Leningrad 8 September 1941 – 27 January 1944 blockade of Leningrad by the Axis

The Siege of Leningrad was a prolonged military blockade undertaken from the south by the Army Group North of Nazi Germany against the Soviet city of Leningrad on the Eastern Front in World War II. The Finnish army invaded from the north, co-operating with the Germans until they had recaptured territory lost in the recent Winter War, but refused to make further approaches to the city.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Pioneers Palace youth center for Young Pioneers

Young Pioneer Palaces or Palaces of Young Pioneers and Schoolchildren were youth centers designated for the creative work, sport training and extracurricular activities of Young Pioneers and other schoolchildren. Young Pioneer Palaces originated in the Soviet Union (USSR). After the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the Soviet Union itself, they were transformed into depoliticized youth extracurricular establishments.

From 1954-57, she studied in the Tchaikovsky musical college in Taganrog and frequently participated in concerts onstage of Taganrog Theatre. From 1957 to 1958, Obraztsova studied in Rostov on Don's music school. In August 1958, Obraztsova passed the examinations and became a student at the Leningrad Conservatory. In 1963 she was invited to perform in a Bolshoi Theater production of Boris Godunov in Moscow. [4] Her introduction to the opera houses of Europe and the world was a recital in the Salle Pleyel in Paris.

Taganrog City in Rostov Oblast, Russia

Taganrog is a port city in Rostov Oblast, Russia, on the north shore of the Taganrog Bay in the Sea of Azov, several kilometers west of the mouth of the Don River. As of the 2010 Census, its population was 257,681.

Taganrog Theatre

The Taganrog Drama Theater named after Anton Chekhov and decorated with Order of Honor is a traditional Russian drama theater based in Taganrog, Rostov Oblast.

Saint Petersburg Conservatory music school in Saint Petersburg

The N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory is a music school in Saint Petersburg, Russia. In 2004, the conservatory had around 275 faculty members and 1,400 students.

Opera career

She played many roles throughout her career, including performances under the baton of such leading conductors as Claudio Abbado and Herbert von Karajan. In December 1977 she opened the 200th opera season in La Scala singing Don Carlos's Eboli with Abbado as conductor. She first performed in New York in 1976, in Aida, and was called a "major artist" in reviews. [2]

Claudio Abbado 20th and 21st-century Italian conductor

Claudio Abbado, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian conductor. One of the most celebrated and respected conductors of the 20th century, particularly in the music of Gustav Mahler, he served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, founder and director of Lucerne Festival Orchestra, music director of European Union Youth Orchestra and principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra.

Herbert von Karajan Austrian conductor

Herbert von Karajan was an Austrian conductor. He was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years. Generally regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, he was a dominant figure in European classical music from the mid-1950s until his death. Part of the reason for this was the large number of recordings he made and their prominence during his lifetime. By one estimate he was the top-selling classical music recording artist of all time, having sold an estimated 200 million records.

La Scala Opera house in Milan, Italy

La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.

In 1978, she played the title role of Carmen opposite Plácido Domingo in Franco Zeffirelli's television production of the opera. She also appeared as Santuzza in Zeffirelli's film version of Cavalleria rusticana in 1982. [2] In her career she performed in operas with many other well-known opera singers of her generation: Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Ingvar Wixell. She sang Carmen opposite Placido Domingo in Franco Zeffirelli’s film of the Bizet opera, and appeared in Don Carlos with Domingo and Margaret Price. [4]

Plácido Domingo Spanish tenor and conductor

José Plácido Domingo Embil is a Spanish opera singer, conductor, and arts administrator. He has recorded over a hundred complete operas and is well known for his versatility, regularly performing in Italian, French, German, Spanish, English and Russian in the most prestigious opera houses in the world. Although primarily a lirico-spinto tenor for most of his career, especially popular for his Cavaradossi, Hoffmann, Don José, and Canio, he quickly moved into more dramatic roles, becoming the most acclaimed Otello of his generation. In the early 2010s, he transitioned from the tenor repertory into almost exclusively baritone parts, most notably Simon Boccanegra. He has performed 149 different roles.

Franco Zeffirelli Italian director and producer of films and television

Gian Franco Corsi Zeffirelli,, best known as Franco Zeffirelli, is an Italian director and producer of operas, films and television. He is also a former senator (1994–2001) for the Italian centre-right Forza Italia party.

<i>Cavalleria rusticana</i> opera by Pietro Mascagni

Cavalleria rusticana is an opera in one act by Pietro Mascagni to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, adapted from an 1880 short story of the same name and subsequent play by Giovanni Verga. Considered one of the classic verismo operas, it premiered on 17 May 1890 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. Since 1893, it has often been performed in a so-called Cav/Pag double-bill with Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo.

On 27 December 1990, she was awarded the title of the Hero of Socialist Labor (mark of distinction - "Hammer and Sickle" gold medal ), Order of Lenin by the President of USSR for her contribution to the development of Soviet Music. [2]

Order of Lenin Soviet Union award

The Order of Lenin, named after the leader of the Russian October Revolution, was established by the Central Executive Committee on April 6, 1930. The order was the highest civilian decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union. The order was awarded to:

In June 2007, Obraztsova was appointed artistic director of opera at the Mikhaylovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. [4] She also trained young soloists in her own cultural center in St. Petersburg. Obraztsova regularly appeared on stage at the Mikhailovsky in the role of the Countess in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades . In 2008, Obraztsova ended her artistic director contract with the Mikhailovsky to concentrate on the competition of her name and the recently announced project of International Academy of Music in St Petersburg. Obraztsova remained in collaboration with the Mikhailovsky at the General Director's Artistic Advisor.

On 7 July 2009, Obraztsova's 70th birthday was marked with a special program at the Mikhailovsky Theater that included ballet performances, opera arias, excerpts from films, and jazz and piano recitals. [5]

Personal life

She strongly supported the Soviet Union, and signed a letter in 1974 denouncing Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya for their support for Alexander Solzhenitsyn. [4]

Obraztsova expressed her support for the International Delphic Games. Greetings with her signature came to the III Delphic Games 2009 in Jeju/South Korea, under the motto "In Tune with Nature", [6] and to the IV Junior Delphic Games 2011 in Johannesburg/South Africa with their motto "Provoke, Innovate, Inspire". [7]

She was married twice, first to Vyacheslav Makarov, a physicist, and later Algis Zi [8] uraitis, who was a conductor at the Bolshoi. [2] She had a daughter, Elena, with Makarov. [4]


Obraztsova died on 12 January 2015 in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany, while undergoing medical treatment. She was 75 years old. [9]

Honours and awards


AdalgisaBellini Norma
AmnerisVerdi Aida
AzucenaVerdi Il trovatore
CarmenBizet Carmen
CharlotteMassenet Werther
CountessTchaikovsky The Queen of Spades
DalilaSaint-Saëns Samson et Dalila
EboliVerdi Don Carlos
FedericaVerdi Luisa Miller
FrosyaProkofiev Semyon Kotko
Giovanna SeymourDonizetti Anna Bolena
GovernessTchaikovsky The Queen of Spades
GrandmaProkofiev The Gambler
Hélène BezukhovaProkofiev War and Peace
HérodiadeMassenet Hérodiade
JocastaStravinsky Oedipus rex
JudithBéla Bartók Bluebeard's Castle
KonchakovnaBorodin Prince Igor
Léonor de Guzman (Leonora di Gusmann)Donizetti La favorite
LyubashaRimsky-Korsakov The Tsar's Bride
Lyubava BuslayevnaRimsky-Korsakov Sadko
MarfaMussorgsky Khovanshchina
Maria AkhrosimovaProkofiev War and Peace
Marina MniszechMussorgsky Boris Godunov
Marya BolkonskayaProkofiev War and Peace
NérisCherubini Médée
OberonBritten A Midsummer Night's Dream
OrfeoGluck Orfeo ed Euridice
Santuzza1Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana 1
SilvanaRespighi La fiamma
The Marquise of BirkenfeldDonizetti The Daughter of the Regiment
The PrincessPuccini Suor Angelica
Polina; Milovzor (Daphnis)Tchaikovsky The Queen of Spades
Princess de BouillonCilea Adriana Lecouvreur
Prince OrlofskyJ. Strauss II Die Fledermaus
UlricaVerdi Un ballo in maschera
Zhenya KomelkovaMolchanovThe Dawns Here Are Quiet

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  1. "Yelena Obraztsova". All Music. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Kishkovsky, Sophia (19 January 2015). "Elena Obraztsove, 75, Jewel of bolshoi Opera, Is Dead". The New York Times .
  3. F. Paul Driscoll (April 2015). "Obituary: Elena Obraztsova". Opera News . 79 (10).
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Elena Obraztsova - Obituary". The Telegraph. 13 January 2015.
  5. Larisa Doctorow, "Home-grown diva", The St. Petersburg Times , 10 July 2009.
  6. "Greeting from Elena Obraztsova, 2009" (PDF).
  7. Greeting from Elena Obraztsova, 2011 Archived 2014-06-28 at the Wayback Machine
  8. family
  9. Умерла знаменитая оперная певица Елена Образцова (in Russian)