Plevitskaya, Nadezhda Vasilievna


Nadezhda Plevitskaya was an outstanding Russian performer who possessed an amazing mezzo-soprano. The singer was appreciated by the Tzar family and outstanding artists of the time. Her name was inscribed in the history of vocal art in golden letters. Astonishing was not only the actress’s voice, but also her life as well. The life path of Nadezhda Plevitskaya was a truly romantic story of a Russian spymistress who devoted her life to music art.

Nadezhda Plevitskaya, nee Vinnikova, was born on January 17, 1884 in the peasant family in the village of Vinnikovo, Kursk province. Only five survived of the twelve children born in the family. The farm was not rich – only 19 acres of plough-land for a family of seven people. Hence, with good harvest, the family always lived well. Dezhka, as the girl’s relatives called her, had a rare, bright voice since her childhood, and the local folks admired her singing.

When the father of the family, Vasily Vinnikov unexpectedly died, the family ended up in financial distress. Having worked as a charwoman for some time, Nadezhda’s mother send her to the Trinity Nunnery in Kursk. The girl stayed there for two years as a chorister in the church choir.

At the age of 15, Nadezhda happened to see a circus performance in the town and decided to leave the monastery and engage her life with the stage. Mother found Dezhka, when she was studying the basics of tightrope walker art in the roving circus. Nadezhda begged not to return her to the Nunnery, and her mother managed to get her a place of an assistance in the mansion of merchant Gladkov in Kursk. One day, Nadezhda caught cold and the family members, fearing diphtheria, sent her to the hospital. After this incident, Plevitskaya returned to her native village. At the end of July, along with her aunt Actinia, Nadezhda left for Kiev. Her aunt started on a pilgrimage, and mother allowed Nadezhda follow her, instructing the daughter to visit her sister Nastya. Nadezhda stayed with Nastya after her aunt left Kiev. Once, along with the girl who lived next door, Nadezhda went to the Arcadia garden to listen to the concert. Their mutual friend, actor Voloschenko gave them the tickets. He invited the girls to join the choir and received immediate consent from both. Alexandra Vladimirovna Lipkina was the hostess of the choir at that time. Voloschenko introduced the girls to her. The first rehearsal together with the choir and pianist Lev Borisovich Lipkin was organized the next day. Thus, Nadezhda Vinnikova ran away from home for the second time. Nadezhda wrote in her memoirs “There were six apprentices in the choir, all teenagers, including me. We were trained for the Chapel and treated with iron fists. The girls were not allowed to leave the place on their own.”

During the choir tour in Tsaritsyn, Alexandra Vladimirovna Lipkina was stolen by the rich Persian and taken to Baku. The choir, together with the pianist, returned to Kiev.

At this time, the new Directorate of the Arcady Garden in Kiev arranged a magnificent opening of the newly renovated hall, and a festive dinner was given to artists and employees. Hence, the choir lacked a leader. Alexandra Lipkina husband drowned his sorrow in wine and by the end of the season, the choir collapsed. Not leaving the team to the mercy of fate, Lipkin wangled them in the Stein Polish ballet troupe that was touring in Kiev. The troupe was well staffed: it included dancers from the Warsaw Government Theater - Zavadska, Zglichinskaya, Tokarska, and Vankovsky being the choreographer. Nadezhda met her first husband in the troupe - the ballet soloist Edmund Myakheslavovich Plevitsky. During the unsuccessful tour through the Ukrainian towns, director Stein was bankrupt and secretly ran away without paying down the artists’ their salaries. Nadezhda, along with her husband, joined the Mankiewicz troupe, with which Plevitskaya went to St. Petersburg for the first time in her life. She performed with this troupe for five years. The former opera singer Mankiewicz, who insisted that Dezhka sang only folk songs. Plevitskaya had long been invited to Moscow to perform in the Yar restaurant, but she did not want to leave the Mankiewicz troupe. After much hesitation, she agreed. Sudakov was the director of the restaurant at that time. His main requirement for the performers was the observance of a strict appearance and lenten clothes - the merchants came to the Yar restaurant with their wives, thus the obscene appearance of actresses with low neckline was unallowable.

Plevitskaya first appearance on the stage was a great success. Moscow public loved the original singer. The actress received numerous proposals for performances, but Nadezhda continued to perform in the Yar. Later, for a large fee, she signed a contact with the Nizhny Novgorod Fair. The noisy restaurant hall calmed down awaiting Plevitskaya to begin singing. She wrote in her memoirs “I remember once that an old merchant, with silver beard was sitting at the table right by the stage; another younger merchant was sitting next to him. When I started singing, "The horse is quietly dragged," the old man looked and looked at me and quite of a sudden turned away as if angry. The young man was confused and whispered something to him. I thought that the old merchant did not like my song: he came to have fun, but he heard sadness. When the merchant turned his face to the stage again, I saw abundant tears running down his wide silver beard. He became angry since he showed his weakness publicly and for not being able to keep himself.” Thus, Nadezhda Plevitskaya performances touched the deepest strings of the listeners’ souls and did not leave anyone indifferent.

One of the evenings in 1909, the opera singer Leonid Sobinov, who arrived in Nizhny Novgorod on tour, came to have dinner at the restaurant. When he heard Nadezhda singing, he went backstage after her performance ended. The famous tenor invited the actress to perform in a charity concert, which was arranged in the local opera house. Sobinov himself, Nikolay and Rene Figner and other opera singers participated in this concert. “And me between them - perfect willfulness and musical lawlessness,” wrote Plevitskaya. The success was astounding; the audience warmly applauded the folk singer. Sobinov watched from behind the curtains the successful performance of Plevitskaya.

The following 1910 year, Plevitskaya, whom the public adored, performed in St. Petersburg, Moscow and other major cities of Russia. The voice of the non-academic singer sounded at the Moscow Conservatory for the first time. The concert of the folk songs performed within the verge of the Conservatory for the first time was a great success.

At that time, the most honored men of art - Feodor Chaliapin, Sergei Yesenin, Konstantin Korovin, Alexandre Benois, Alexander Kuprin and others — joined her circle of communication. Chaliapin told her “Sing your songs that you brought from the earth, I don’t have such ones – I was born in town, I am not a village man.” The actress also performed for the Tzar family. Nicholas II called her "the Kursk nightingale". Plevitskaya often performed at the court since the fashion for everything folk and rustic came into fashion. She even dined with the Tzar family at the same table and talked over tea. She became the symbol of the Tzar family to the ordinary people. With his head bent low, the Emperor listened to Nadezhda Plevitskaya intimate songs and, as eyewitnesses used to say, even wept sometimes.

In 1910, the first gramophone records with the voice of Plevitskaya were recorded. They were sold in large amounts. In 1911, the singer acquired Moroskin Forest, where she spent a lot of the time as a child. Plevitskaya built a mansion there, which became her favorite place for summer holidays. The actress received huge fees and generously shared her earnings with those who suffered. One example of the performer's broad soul was the following. In 1914, the fire destroyed almost the entire neighboring village. Plevitskaya organized a charity concert, and total proceeds were directed to build new houses for the fire victims.

Plevitskaya divorced her first husband, but stayed in warm friendly relations with him. The second spouse of the singer was Shangin, the lieutenant of the Cuirassier Regiment. Since the beginning of World War I, he was sent to the front. Plevitskaya followed him. She served as a nurse in the divisional hospital in Kovno. In January 1915, the lieutenant perished on the battlefield. Soon the artist's mother, Akulina Frolovna, also died.

After the 1917 revolution, Plevitskaya repeatedly was attacked by the left press and was forced to abandon public performances, participating only in charity concerts. At this time, the singer fell in love with Yuri Levitsky, the son of the commander of the 73rd Infantry Division, where Shangin once served. In 1919, they were captured by the equestrian intelligence service of the Kornilov division under the command of General Skoblin. The commander recognized the people's favorite singer in captive, and immediately took her to the headquarters, where a concert for officers was arranged. General Skoblin was fascinated by the singer. Nadezhda left Levitsky for the sake of the young general. Their secret betrothal took place during the evacuation of Baron Pyotr Wrangell troops from the Crimea to Turkey. From there, the couple left for Bulgaria, where in September 1924, General Wrangell announced the transformation of the White Army in the RAMU (Russian All-Military Union). Skoblin retained the rank of general and the post of battalion commander.

In emigration, the singer continues to give concerts in the European cities, performing on the same stage with Alexander Vertinsky and Yuri Morfessi. Husband accompanied Plevitskaya everywhere. During the tour to the United States in 1826, she met with Sergei Rachmaninoff, who recorded the song “You are my white faced and blushy” from her voice. The singer once heard this song from a peasant of the Kursk province. White emigration enthusiastically accepted Plevitskaya performances throughout Europe, while the European public was not interested in such repertoire. The singer did not know foreign languages and could not satisfy the demands of the foreign public. Spouses were forced to lead a modest existence, as the income from the performances were barely enough for life.

I a moment everything changed dramatically for family of Nadezhda Plevitskaya. On September 2, 1930, Skoblin met his fellow soldier, Petr Kowalski, in Paris. The men fought in the Volunteer Army together. Kowalski worked at the Foreign Department of the Joint State Political Directorate (JSPD) and was tasked with recruiting Skoblin into the ranks of the Soviet foreign intelligence. Their first meeting was ineffective - Skoblin refused to cooperate with the JSPD. It was decided to act through Plevitskaya, which had a huge impact on her husband. Kowalski assured her of the security of cooperation for Skoblin and guaranteed the return of the family to their homeland with honors. On September 10, 1930, Plevitskaya and her spouse gave written consent to cooperate with Soviet foreign intelligence. They were assigned the pseudonyms “Farmer” and “Farmer’s wife”. The spouses bought the automobile and could afford visiting expensive health resorts for the money received from the intelligence service. Their salary was $ 200 that in those times was considered serious money.

Plevitskaya and Skoblin provided intelligence with a lot of invaluable information about the life of white emigration. In 1930, the General Miller took the post of RAMU General, Skoblin became his closest assistant. In 1834, Miller formed the White Idea organization in France, which trained moonbeams. In Belgrade, Miller created non-commissioned officer courses for immigrant youth. The new head of the RAMU continued the policy of mass terror within the Soviet Union.

During first four years of work for the Soviet intelligence, Plevitskaya and her spouse provided information, thanks to which the Joint State Political Directorate arrested 17 RAMU agents in the USSR and established 11 safe houses.

In 1937, the RAMU leaders shifted to the Nazi Germany, the only country that in their opinion declared a deadly struggle against communism. Together with the German troops, they hoped to invade the territory of the USSR and lead the occupation regime there. The USSR Intelligence service decided to abduct General Miller. On September 22, 1937, Miller was brought to the Soviet Union for trial. Before that, Miller left a note with the following content: “Today I have a meeting with general Skoblin on the corner of the streets Jasmin and Raffet at 12:30. He will take me to the meeting with the German officer, a military attaché in the Balkan countries Strowman and with Werner, the official of the local German embassy. Both speak good Russian. A date is arranged on the initiative of Skoblin. It is possible that this is a trap, and therefore just in case I leave a note.” As a result, Skoblin was accused of involvement in the abduction, was arrested, but he safely escaped.

The French police arrested Nadezhda Plevitskaya on September 24, 1937. A powerful lot of money - seven and a half thousand francs that she had with her, served the proof of her guilt at the trial. The investigation of the Plevitskaya case lasted more than a year. On December 14, 1938, the singer was found guilty of spying for the Soviet Union and of kidnapping the General Miller and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor.

At the end of 1940, the city of Rennes, in which the prisoner was kept in the central prison, was occupied by German troops. The Gestapo established that Plevitskaya was involved in the activities of the Soviet intelligence. Soon she became seriously ill and died on October 5, 1940. Skoblin life story was cut short three years earlier, in 1937, during the Nazi bombing of Barcelona, where he fled after Miller’s abduction.

Thus ended the life of a talented singer Nadezhda Plevitskaya, the actress that contributed to the popularization of folk art and the formation of a folk song as an independent genre. She was the first singer who brought a folk song to the stage, giving birth to a new direction of vocal art. These deep, soulful songs continue to conquer the hearts of listeners, and the artist herself became the personification of folk song art.