Maria Petrovna Maksakova was born in Astrakhan on April 8, 1902. The future singer had a deprived childhood. After father’s death and due to lack of maternal attention and angularity of character, little Masha Maksakova neglected school studies. However, when she began practicing music and singing in church choir, her attitude towards studying changed dramatically. Moreover, due to choir singing, Maksakova developed faultless intoning and smooth sounding.
After the Great October revolution, the tuition-free education was established in the country; Maria entered the academy of music and specialized in playing the piano. She did not have piano at home, for this reason she practiced in the academy daily, until late in the evening.
In 1917 – early 1918 all church choirs singers were unified in one secular choir. After the choir was disintegrated, Maria turned to study singing.
The singer had deep voice, close to contralto. Maria studied successfully at the musical academy and she was sent to the concerts that were arranged for the Red Guard and the Navy. Later, Maksakova studied vocalism under Borodin, and afterwards she studied together with the artist of the Astrakhan Opera - the dramatic soprano Smolenskaya, whom she followed to the operatic stage.
The first role entrusted to Maria was Olga from the opera Eugene Onegin. The singer carefully studied the movements of her fellow singers and tried to match the professional grade of an opera stage singer. After the appointment of a new Managing Director, Maximilian Maksakov, who used to say that in spite of the scenic talent and inborn voice, Maria was unable to sing properly. Since Maksakov did not have time to teach her vocalism, Maria decided to leave for Petrograd to study singing there.
A few days later Alexander Glazunov himself listened to Maria’s singing at the Conservatory. He referred her to the professor who was supposed to give her lessons in vocalism. However, Maria did not like to be trained as a lyrical soprano, and therefore she returned to Astrakhan. There she married Maximilian Maksakov, who became her principal vocal tutor.
Maksakova was noted for the distinctive sense of rhythm, accuracy of intonation, musical and speech expressiveness.
The singer first appeared on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in the role of Amneris, and was immediately enlisted in the troupe. While working by the side of the prominent masters – the conductor Václav Suk, the stage-manager Vladimir Lossky, soloists Antonina Nezhdanova, Leonid Sobinov, Nadezda Obukhova, Elena Stepanova and Elena Katulskaya, a would-be singer was quick in realizing that no talent might assist without the utmost effort.
Maksakova seconded to Leningrad in 1925. Gladkovsky and Prussak replenished her operatic repertoire with the parts of Orpheus, Martha (“Khovanshchina”) and comrade Dasha in the opera “For Red Petrograd”. Two years later, in 1927, Maria returned to Moscow, to the State Academic Bolshoi Theater, remaining the premiere soloist of the country's first troupe until 1953.
There were no mezzo-soprano parties in the Bolshoi Theater operas, in which Maksakova would not have stared at that time.
Her parts of Carmen, Lyubasha, Marina Mnishek, Martha, Ganne, Spring Beauty and Lel in the operas by the Russian classical authors, her Delilah, Azuchen, Ortrud, and Charlotte in Werther and Orfeo in the opera by Christof Gluck, staged by the State Opera Ensemble under the direction of Ivan Kozlovsky were unforgettable for thousands of people. She was magnificent Clarice in the opera Love for Three Oranges by Prokofiev, the first Almast in the similarly named opera by Alexander Spendiarov, Aksinya in The Quiet Flows of the Don by Ivan Dzerzhinsky and Grunya in the Battleship Potemkin by Oles Chishko.
Maksakova concertized a lot during her stage heyday and later, after leaving theatre. Among her highest achievements, were the interpretations of the romances by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Robert Schumann, the works of the Soviet composers and the folk songs.
Maria Petrovna undoubtedly was a hard-working person, her patient work and efforts in perfecting her voice and skills multiplied and upraised her natural talent.
After Maria Petrovna quitted the stage performances, she continued to live vibrant and colorful creative life. She taught art of singing at the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts, where she was the assistant professor, headed the Folk Singing School in Moscow, participated in the jury of various All-Union and international vocal competitions, and was engaged in opinion-based journalism.
M.P. Maksakova died on August 11, 1974 in Moscow.
Adapted from Belcanto.ru