Soviet singer (mezzo-soprano), People's Artist of the USSR
April 8, 1902 - August 11, 1974
The founder of the actors’ dynasty was born on April 8, 1902 in the family of the Astrakhan Shipping Company employee. Maria sang in the church choir, studied at the Astrakhan Musical School. At the young age, she married a well-known baritone singer, stage-manager, entrepreneur and teacher Maximilian Maksakov, who became her mentor. His birth name was Max Schwartz, he was native of Austria-Hungary. He had a major impact on the formation of the future singer. For four years, the spouses sang in the Astrakhan Opera. These were the years of professional perfection and the search for her own style and cantatory style for Maria under the strict guidance of Maximilian. These were the years when the foundation for basic skills were laid that helped Maksakova to be enlisted in the Bolshoi Theater in 1923 as a well-established singer. Maria Maksakova first appeared at the Bolshoi Theater stage in 1923 as Amneris in the opera “Aida”. The success was enormous. Sergei Lemeshev that heard the debutante wrote that he was impressed by the clearness of her voice, which flowed freely and easily. “Even then, Maksakova impressed us with her emphasis on to the word. Her utterance was not just distinct and clear, it was truly dramatic and artistically expressive”.
Recalling that time, Maksakova herself told her loved ones, “In the morning, my work awaited for me, then performance, tears followed in the evening. Max arranged a comprehensive debriefing of my performance and caught up for all my mistakes ... Daily”. For two years, Maksakova sang at the Opera and Ballet Theater in Leningrad, then she returned to the Bolshoi Theater, as a soloist. Her Carmen, Marina Mnishek, Lyubasha, Hanna, Martha, Spring, Lel in the operas by Russian composers, as well as Azucena, Ortrud, Delilah, Charlotte were unforgettable.
In the 1930s, Maksakova was among the few Soviet performers that represented Soviet singing art abroad. She visited Sweden, Poland, Turkey, and after the Second World War, some other countries.
From 1923 to 1953, Maria Maksakova was the leading mezzo-soprano soloist in the Bolshoi Theater (in 1925-1927 she sang in the Leningrad Opera and Ballet Theater named after Kirov), having managed to occupy the highest position in it, despite the fact that the theater at that time had very strong mezzo-soprano group headed by Nadezhda Obukhova. The creative life of Maria Maksakova was very successful - for 30 years of the stage activity, she sang many central roles.
In 1936, Maximilian Maksakov died. During her tour to Warsaw, Maria Petrovna met the Soviet ambassador Yakov Davtyan. However, six month after their marriage he was murdered. Maksakova lived in constant anxiety.
In 1938-1941, Maria Petrovna participated in the performances of the State Opera Ensemble, headed by Ivan Kozlovsky. The most interesting parts of Orpheus in the opera by Christoph Gluck and Charlotte in the opera "Werther" by Jules Massenet appeared in the singer's repertoire.
The beginning of the war chronologically coincided with the birth of the daughter Lyudmila. Her birth remained a family secret for a long time. When Lyudmila grew up, she learned that her father, a former Bolshoi Theater singer, Alexander Volkov, had left for America during the war, leaving Maksakova alone with the daughter in her arms.
Concert activity of the singer always had widest recognition in our country. Maksakova was awarded with her first State Stalin Prize for concert performances during the Great Patriotic War. Her repertoire was wide – she sang romances by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, romantic cycles by Robert Schumann, miniatures by Soviet composers, Russian folk songs – everything was within the power of her talent.
In 1953, Maria was pensioned off. She was in the top form, vivid, beautiful, tall, slender, easy outgoing ... Experiencing resentment in her heart, Maksakova, three times the State Stalin Prize laureate, Honored Artist of the Republic, in her 50-odd years, began ... new creative life. She followed as a performer of folk songs and romances to the Russian Folk Orchestra named after Nikolai Osipov.
In 1956, Maksakova was asked to return to the Bolshoi Theater, but she decided to sing only once - the part of Carmen in order to say farewell to her audience.
Until the end of her life, Maria leaded full, active life. She taught vocal art at the GITIS Academy, was one of the organizers of the People's Singing School in Moscow, and constantly participated in the jury of various international and all-Union competitions for young soloists. Sometimes her audience asked, “Isn't she a People's artist? It is impossible". In 1971, when Maria Maksakova was on retirement benefit her daughter Lyudmila called her and said, “Mommy, there was just a call from the Culture minister - you were given the title of the People’s Artist”. In response, she heard the unhurried answer of her mother: “It doesn’t matter. Now it doesn't matter anymore…”
The great Maksakova died in Moscow on August 11, 1974. Contemporaries recall that during the funeral, mounted police cordoned off the center of Moscow. Too many people came to say goodbye to their favorite singer. People threw flowers and cried, "Farewell, Carmen!". This was one of the best parts by Maria Maksakova. She performed in this opera 800 times ...