Elena Obraztsova, bright opera star
Elena Obraztsova was a Soviet and Russian opera singer (mezzo-soprano), actress, teacher, professor, People’s Artist of the USSR (1976), Hero of Socialist Labor (1990), winner of the Lenin Prize (1976) and the State Prize of the RSFSR. She was widely recognized as one of the greatest opera singers of all time.
Elena was born on July 7, 1939 in Leningrad, Soviet Union (now St. Petersburg, Russia). As a child Obraztsova lived in Leningrad but in autumn 1941 the siege began and she, her mother and grandmother were evacuated to a small town Ustyuzhna, Vologda region.
Elena was fond of music since the early childhood. She started singing at the age of 5.
In 1963 she was invited to play the role of Marina Mnishek in Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.
During her career, Elena had played more than twenty roles: Polina and the Countess in the Queen of Spades, Princess Mary and Helene Bezrukova in War and Peace, Amneris in Aida, Carmen in Carmen, Dalila in Samson and Dalila, Lyubov in Sadko, and many others.
Elena Obraztsova performed on the most celebrated opera stages of the world: the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatre, La Scala, El Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, the Grand Opera, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, and the San Francisco Opera.
She performed with many of the world’s most famous singers like Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Mirella Freni, Renata Scotto, Carlo Bergonzi, Fedora Barbieri, Nikolai Giuselev, Montserrat Caballe…
In 1975 in Spain Obraztsova was recognized as the best performer of Carmen in the world.
In December 1977 she opened the 200th opera season in La Scala singing Don Carlos’ Eboli.
Obraztsova received all of the highest awards of the USSR and Russia, including Honored Artist of the RSFSR, People’s Artist of USSR titles, Lenin Prize, Order of Lenin, Order of Merit for the Fatherland 2nd and 3rd classes, Hero of Socialist Labor title, Order of the Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow (1st class) etc., and many prestigious awards from other countries.
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.
The great Russian opera singer died of blood cancer on January 12, 2015 in Leipzig. Elena Obraztsova was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.
Her first husband was Vyacheslav Makarov, a theoretical physicist. Her daughter Elena Makarova was born in 1966. She is a singer, Montserrat Caballe’s student.
Algis Zhyuraytis, conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre, People’s Artist of Russia, laureate of the State Prize of the USSR, was her second husband.