Elena Vasiliyevna Obraztsova (Russian: Елена Васильевна Образцова; 7 July 1939 – 12 January 2015) was a Russian mezzo-soprano, widely recognised as one of the greatest opera singers of all time, thanks to her outstanding stage presence and vocal abilities.
As a child, Obraztsova lived in Leningrad through the severe long siege (more than 870 days) during World War II. From 1954 to 1957, Obraztsova 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. Her introduction to the opera houses of Europe and the world was a recital in the Salle Pleyel in Paris.
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.
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. 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.
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.
In June 2007, Obraztsova was appointed artistic director of opera at the Mikhaylovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. 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.
She strongly supported the Soviety Union, and signed a letter in 1974 denouncing Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya for their support for Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
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", and to the IV Junior Delphic Games 2011 in Johannesburg / South Africa with their motto "Provoke, Innovate, Inspire".
Obraztsova died on 12 January 2015 in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany, while undergoing medical treatment. She was 75.
Honours and awards
- Glinka State Prize of the RSFSR (1st prize) (1962)
- 1970 - Viñas prize (1st prize, International Vocal Competition in Barcelona)
- Honoured Artist of the RSFSR
- 1970 Tchaikovsky prize (1st prize)
- Order of the Red Banner of Labour, twice (1971, 1980)
- Glinka State Prize of the RSFSR - for concerts and theatrical activities 1971-1972 period (1973)
- People's Artist of the RSFSR (1973)
- Lenin Prize - for concert programs in 1973-1974 and the roles of Froska, Carmen, Azucena in the Operas "Simeon Kolko", Prokofiev's "Carmen" by Bizet, "Il Trovatore" by Verdi (1976)
- People's Artist of USSR (1976)
- Hero of Socialist Labour (27 December 1990) - for outstanding contributions to the development of Soviet musical art
- Order of Lenin (27 December 1990)
- Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 3rd class (17 June 1999) - for outstanding contribution to the development of musical art
- Casta Diva prize (2002)
- Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 2nd class (10 June 2009) - for outstanding contribution to music and many years of fruitful creative activity
- Order of the Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow, 1st class (Russian Orthodox Church, 2009) - in consideration of his labours for the good of the Church and in connection with her 70th birthday
- "Yelena Obraztsova". All Music.
- Kishkovsky, Sophia (19 January 2015). "Elena Obraztsove, 75, Jewel of bolshoi Opera, Is Dead". New York Times.
- "Elena Obraztsova - Obituary". The Telegraph. 13 January 2015.
- Larisa Doctorow, "Home-grown diva", The St. Petersburg Times, 10 July 2009.
- Greeting from Elena Obraztsova, 2009
- Greeting from Elena Obraztsova, 2011
- Умерла знаменитая оперная певица Елена Образцова (Russian)
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