BiographyAnastasia Dmitrievna Vyaltseva (March 13, 1871, Altukhovo settlement, Oryol province - February 17, 1913, St. Petersburg) - Russian popular singer (mezzo-soprano), performer of Russian and gypsy romances, operetta artist.
Anastasia was left fatherless early. Her mother with three children had to leave for Kiev and she washed there for living. Later, when Vyaltseva became a celebrity, the newspapers, hinting at this, noted, "As Aphrodite was born from the sea scum - Vyaltseva was born from the laundry soap scum".
When Nastya was 13 years old, little incident happened that changed her life totally. Once she was cleaning the hotel apartment of a famous artist, the operetta prima donna Velskaya. Nastya decided that there was no one in the apartment and began to clean the room singing as usual. Hence, Velskaya was in the next room. She heard the girl singing and exclaimed, "You know, you have a brilliant voice, you should learn to sing". Nastya immediately quit her job at the hotel, found an entrepreneur and persuaded him to enlist her in the operetta troupe. She was accepted for the role of the wordless footboy with a salary of 32 rubles a month. She performed in Lenchevsky ballet troupe and in vocal troupe as well. At the age of 16, Vyaltseva became a chorus girl at the Kiev Operetta non-repertory company, where she worked for six years (1888-1893).
In 1893 the theater, where Vyaltseva served, visited Moscow with tour. After this tour, Anastasia decided to try herself in St. Petersburg on the operetta stage. She went to the Arcadia Theater, then to the Maly Petersburg Theater. She was enlisted in both theaters as a chorus girl, not as an artist. Vyaltseva was a good-looking girl, with opulent and sonorous voice, with beautiful chesty shades. Hence, being an ordinary provincial artist without vocal education, she realized that she could apply for small roles only.
Anastasia awoke to find himself famous after her debut in the role of Katya in the musical revue "Gypsy Songs” on the stage of the St. Petersburg Maly Theater. The part was small, but at the end of the last act, Vyaltseva was entrusted with singing the song "I wish - I will love".
A slender, attractive young woman, with charming smile, flirtatiously and playfully sang a simple song, causing a storm of applause. This evening was the beginning of her career. Fateful romance will become a permanent adornment of her concert repertoire later.
She had to learn a lot, since she did not have real vocal training. Vyaltseva realized that her path in life was a solo performing career. She possessed beauty, youth and excellent voice - all ingredients to build a career of a variety actress. She needed money and promoters. A patron volunteered soon. His name was Nikolay Kholeva. He introduced Anastasia to his music salon, where famous St. Petersburg and Moscow singers performed, and invested a lot of money in her education.
Vyaltseva gave her first solo concert in 1897. The audience accepted her performance enthusiastically. Anastasia sang about love, about the sweets of life, taking the listeners into the carefree and festive world of rushing troikas, clinking guitars, and foaming champagne. The singer charmed her audience with the playfulness and lightness of her sonorous voice. The admirers called her "the singer of the sweets of life" and "white gypsy".
Since 1902, the singer toured throughout Russia. Primarily, Vyaltseva toured annually, later she toured twice a year - in spring and in autumn. Vyaltseva travelled in her own railway carriage, decorated according to her own taste. Despite numerous tours in province and active concert activity in the capitals, she continued to perform in operettas - Saffi in "The Gypsy Baron" by Strauss, Périchole in the operetta “La Périchole” by J. Offenbach), Elena in " La Belle Hélène" by J. Offenbach, Clairette in "Madame Angot's Daughter" by Charles Lecocq. It is curious to note that Vyaltseva, who managed to take out romance and gypsy song from restaurants to the theater stage, always dreamed of singing in operas.
She performed in opera several times, at the Mariinsky Theater as well. She sang Carmen ("Carmen" by Bizet), Amneris ("Aida" by G. Verdi), Delilah ("Samson and Delilah" by Saint-Saens), sang in "Mignon" and "The Queen of Spades". However, she did not become an opera singer.
In 1904, gramophones appeared in Russia. Anastasia recorded about 100 songs, and the entire country could enjoy her voice, one of her nicknames was "Russian gramophone queen”. In the first decade of the 20th century, Vyaltseva reached the peak of popularity. Performances, gramophone recordings, participation in prestigious private theatrical concerts. The press discussing "the strange, narcotic sound of her voice". Prices for her concerts reached fantastic heights; they are comparable only to those of Feodor Chalyapin.
Then there was an affair with Vasily Biskupsky - a nobleman and a brilliant officer. When Vasily was wounded during Russian-Japanese war, Anastasia Vyaltseva threw everything and rushed to the front to help her beloved. With her own money, she set up a hospital train and became a sister of mercy to hold casualties. They could not get married for a long time - marriages between officers and "songsters" were strictly prohibited. Anastasia managed to obtain personal permission from the Emperor Nicholas II. Vyaltseva became famous for encoring up to 30 times per night. Her record – 52 encores, was during one of the St. Petersburg concerts. Vyaltseva saw her mission in “serving” her admirers, no matter how demanding they might be.
Once, after Anastasia Vyaltseva performed the romance “Sing, swallow, sing”, an unfamiliar young man approached her. “You touched my heart, Swallow”, he said. After that, the singer was often called “Swallow”. The unexpected admirer turned out to be oil magnate from Baku - Baron Pavel Steinheil. Constant tours, travels, performances not only brought solid income, but also took a lot of energy. In 1912, during one of the concerts in Kursk, the singer fainted on stage. Everyone thought that physical exertion caused it. Hence, after a thorough examination she was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. Doctors demanded that she should stop performing and move to the south.
Baron Steinheil offered Vyaltseva to stay in his dacha in the Crimea. The singer moved to the miniature Gothic castle, built on a steep forty-meter high cliff Ai-Todor cape. The healing sea air, the sun, beautiful rosarium behind the castle - all this benefited to Vyaltseva health condition. Steinheil, who often visited his beloved, called the dacha where his "swallow" settled – the Swallow's Nest.
Vyaltseva missed the stage. As soon as she felt better, she went on a tour. She returned barely alive after it. A council of physicians made a terrible diagnosis – it was blood cancer. Nobody knew how to treat this disease. Chemotherapy was made, however it did not help. As well as hypnosis, Tibetan medicine and other methods did not help. In February 1913, Vyaltseva died. About 160,000 devoted admirers attended the funeral procession. It seemed that the whole country was saying goodbye to the talented and beloved actress.
A.R. Kugel “Theatrical portraits”. L., 1967. – p. 284-293.
I.V. Nestiev “Russian pop stars: (Panina, Vyaltseva, Plevitskaya)”. Essays about Russian singers. Early 20th century. M., 1970. p. 46-65.
S.E. Lazarev “Labor and talent were her main patrons”. The unfinished song by Anastasia Vyaltseva (to the 150th birth anniversary of the singer) // Questions of cultural studies. 2021. No. 3. p. 220-236.
I.I. Schneider Notes of an old Muscovite. M., 1970. p. 135.