Nezhdanova Antonina

Antonina Nezhdanova was a Russian and Soviet opera singer (lyric-coloratura soprano) and teacher. Nezhdanova was born on June 16, 1873, in a village near Odessa, into a family of school teachers

The singer's father played the violin and headed an amateur choir. Antonina began to develop her innate gift as a child, singing in the choir of the local church. The girl's voice was touched the villagers that noted, "What a little canary, what a sweet voice!” She started performing solo when she was in the fifth grade of grammar school. During her studies, Antonina also attended music school, but at her parents' request, she dropped out to concentrate on her secondary education. After graduating, she worked as a teacher at the Odessa City Girls' School.

Antonina dreamed of mastering the art of singing by obtaining a higher education and performing on the stage.

When she was twenty-six, she entered the Moscow Conservatoire, from where she graduated with a gold medal three years later. Her teacher was Italian Umberto Mazzetti. The Italian school of singing matched Antonina's natural voice, which was important for further perfection. The teacher did not force her vocal development and allowed her to sing in the middle register. Despite her tremendous successes, Antonina continued to take vocal lessons from Masetti for nearly twenty years, until he passed away in 1919.

Nezhdanova made her way to the Bolshoi Theatre in a remarkable way. All three performers of Antonida in the opera “A Life for the Tsar” by Mikhail Glinka had fallen ill. The theatre management had to invite a debutante applicant, who had not previously been enrolled on the staff due to lack of vacancies. The part of Antonida opened the gallery of captivating images created by Nezhdanova in the operas by Russian composers: Lyudmila (“Ruslan and Lyudmila" by Mikhail Glinka, 1902); Volkhova (“Sadko” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 1906); Tatiana (“Eugene Onegin” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, 1906); The Snow Maiden (opera of the same name by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 1907); Tsaritsa of Shemakha (“The Golden Cockerel” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 1909); Marfa (“The Tsar's Bride” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 1916); Iolanta (“Iolanta”, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, 1917); The Swan Princess (“The Tale of Tsar Saltan” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov., 1920). Her scenic masterpiece -- the image of Marfa in “The Tsar's Bride” -- Nezhdanova created almost halfway of her creative way, in 1916, abided the role all her creative life, including an act from it in her anniversary performance in 1933.

The major opera houses of the world dreamed of signing long-term contracts with the "Russian nightingale", but Nezhdanova rejected the most flattering engagements. Only once did the magnificent Russian singer agree to perform at the Grand Opéra in Paris. In April-May 1912, she sang the role of Gilda “Rigoletto” by Giuseppe Verdi. Her companions on the stage were the prominent Italian singers Enrico Caruso and Titta Ruffo.

Every year the actress played more and roles at the Bolshoi Theatre. The famous composers wrote arias exclusively for her. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov relied on her vocal talent when he created the image of the Tsaritsa of Shemakha in “The Golden Cockerel”. The singing of Nezhdanova was not about words, phrasing or intonation, but about her sound. This was what Sergei Rachmaninoff appreciated so much when he dedicated his Vocalize to her.

In 1915, the composer M. Ippolitov-Ivanov introduced at a dinner Nadezhda Nezhdanova, being 42, to the 24-year-old conductor Nikolai Golovanov, who soon became her husband and permanent concert accompanist.

Nezhdanova welcomed the October Revolution with great enthusiasm. She performed free of charge in the workshops of factories and plants; she often travelled to villages and remote settlements. She was very proud to sing at the rallies where Lenin spoke. In 1922, with the assistance of Lunacharsky, the singer went on a foreign tour with Nikolai Golovanov. The tour through the cities of Western Europe and the Baltics became triumphant. Since 1924, the songs of Nezhdanova songs were broadcast on the radio. The singer wrote a book of memoirs in which she shared her ideas concerning the art of singing. Beginning from 1936, she taught at the opera studio of the Bolshoi Theatre; the same year was awarded the title "People's Artist of the USSR". Since 1944, she was a professor at the Moscow Conservatoire. Nezhdanova and Golovanov did not gone to evacuation during the Great Patriotic War. Together with the other artists of the Bolshoi Theater, they gave 90 radio concerts.

The natural vocal uniqueness of Nezhdanova was embellished not only by her refined technique, but also by the charm of her voice timbre, the spirituality and ease of her performance. During the heyday of her stage career, the singer was an idol of the audience. The art of Nezhdanova art revolutionized the Russian opera scene. Previously Russian singing might have been dramatic, it might have been highly theatrical, but Nezhdanova brought an unusual and unconventional poetry of sound to the Russian classical repertoire. Her singing brought with it the poetization and romanticization of all the everyday traditions of the Bolshoi Theatre, all the realistic foundations of Russian opera.

Antonina Nezhdanova passed away on June 26, 1950. In 1951, the opera class of the Moscow Conservatoire and the Musical State Academy in Odessa were named after her. A commemorative plaque was placed on the former gymnasium on Leo Tolstoy Street, where Nezhdanova studied.


S.Y. Lemeshev, The Way to Art. Moscow, Art, 1974.