Antonina Vasilievna Nezhdanova (Russian: Антонина Васильевна Нежданова, 16 June [O.S. 4 June] 1873 – 26 June 1950) was a Russian lyric coloratura soprano. An outstanding opera singer, she represented the Russian vocal school at its best.
Nezhdanova was born in Kryva Balka, near Odessa, Ukraine, then in the Russian Empire. In 1899, she entered the Moscow Conservatory. Upon her graduation three years later she joined the Bolshoi Theatre, rapidly becoming its leading soprano. She sang often, too, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and also in Kiev and Odessa. Paris heard her in 1912, when she appeared opposite the great tenor Enrico Caruso and Caruso's baritone equivalent, Titta Ruffo.
Nezhdanova was the dedicatee of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, and she was the first performer of the arrangement for soprano and orchestra, with the composer conducting. She created a number of operatic roles. After the 1917 Russian Revolution she stayed on at the Bolshoi, unlike some of her fellow opera singers, who left their native country for the West. In 1936, she began to teach singing in Moscow and was appointed a professor at the city's conservatory in 1943.
She was married to the conductor Nikolai Golovanov and died in Moscow in 1950.
Nezhdanova made a number of recordings that display the beauty and flexibility of her voice and the excellence of her technique. She is considered by opera historians and critics to have been one of the finest sopranos of the 20th century.
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