Elena Obraztsova

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

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

Elena Vasiliyevna Obraztsova (Russian: Еле́на Васи́льевна Образцо́ва, IPA: [ɪ̯ɪˈlʲenə vɐˈsʲilʲɪ̯ɪvnə ɐbrɐˈstsovə]; 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.


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]

From 1954 to 1957, 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.

Opera career[edit]

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]

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, and appeared in Don Carlos with Domingo and Margaret Price.[4]

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]

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[edit]

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 Ziuraitis,[8] 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[edit]


Role Composer Opera
Adalgisa Bellini Norma
Amneris Verdi Aida
Azucena Verdi Il trovatore
Carmen Bizet Carmen
Charlotte Massenet Werther
Countess Tchaikovsky The Queen of Spades
Dalila Saint-Saëns Samson et Dalila
Eboli Verdi Don Carlos
Federica Verdi Luisa Miller
Frosya Prokofiev Semyon Kotko
Giovanna Seymour Donizetti Anna Bolena
Governess Tchaikovsky The Queen of Spades
Grandma Prokofiev The Gambler
Hélène Bezukhova Prokofiev War and Peace
Hérodiade Massenet Hérodiade
Jocasta Stravinsky Oedipus rex
Judith Béla Bartók Bluebeard's Castle
Konchakovna Borodin Prince Igor
Léonor de Guzman (Leonora di Gusmann) Donizetti La favorite
Lyubasha Rimsky-Korsakov The Tsar's Bride
Lyubava Buslayevna Rimsky-Korsakov Sadko
Marfa Mussorgsky Khovanshchina
Maria Akhrosimova Prokofiev War and Peace
Marina Mniszech Mussorgsky Boris Godunov
Marya Bolkonskaya Prokofiev War and Peace
Néris Cherubini Médée
Oberon Britten A Midsummer Night's Dream
Orfeo Gluck Orfeo ed Euridice
Santuzza1 Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana 1
Silvana Respighi La fiamma
The Marquise of Birkenfeld Donizetti The Daughter of the Regiment
The Princess Puccini Suor Angelica
Polina; Milovzor (Daphnis) Tchaikovsky The Queen of Spades
Princess de Bouillon Cilea Adriana Lecouvreur
Prince Orlofsky J. Strauss II Die Fledermaus
Ulrica Verdi Un ballo in maschera
Zhenya Komelkova Molchanov The Dawns Here Are Quiet
  • 1 Concert performance of the opera/operetta


  1. ^ "Yelena Obraztsova". All Music. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. ^ a b c d e f "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)

External links[edit]