Elena Obraztsova, mezzo-soprano
Elena Obraztsova was born in Leningrad, Russia, on July 7, 1939. As a little girl, she lived through the siege of Leningrad loosing her grandmother to starvation during the siege. After the war, she began showing an interest in music and dreamed of becoming an opera star. Her father, an engineer who played several musical instruments, found her voice displeasing and attempted to enroll Elena in the Radio Technical Institute in Taganrog (where he worked at the time) to study electronics. She was not accepted, so she entered the Rostov Music College and then the Leningrad Conservatory where she studied with Antonina Grigorieva. In 1962, she got the Gold Medal at the Eighth World Youth Festival in Helsinki, much to the surprise of her teacher. The following year she earned another first prize at the Glinka All-Union Competition in Moscow. Shortly after, she was invited to join the Bolshoi Opera Company in Moscow.
In 1964, Elena Obraztsova made her operatic debut at the Bolshoi Theater as Marina in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. Soon after, she appeared with the Bolshoi Company at La Scala in Milan, as Marfa in Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina. During the Bolshoi's 1975 tour of the United States, she appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as Marina in Boris Godunov, stopping the show to take five curtain calls at the end of her love duet with Grigori, sung by Vladimir Atlantov. During the tour, she has also appeared as the Old Countess in Pique Dame, Hélène Bezukhova in War and Peace, and Zhenka Komelkova in Molchanov's The Dawns Are Quiet Here.
In 1975, Elena was invited to open the San Francisco Opera's season as Azucena in Verdi's Il Trovatore with Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, and Ingvar Wixell. She returned to launch the 1977 season as the Princesse de Bouillon in Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur. Meanwhile, on October 12, 1976, she caused a sensation when she made her official debut as a member of the Metropolitan Opera company in Verdi's Aida. That year, she also sang at Carnegie Hall at the Richard Tucker Memorial Gala.
In 1977, she scored a major triumph as Dalila in Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila at the Met. In 1978, she added the roles of Charlotte in Massenet's Werther and Carmen in Bizet's Carmen to her Met repertoire. She also made her Covent Garden debut that year, as Azucena in Il Trovatore.
During her career, Elena Obraztsova has mastered more than twenty operatic roles. She has also ventured into the field of producing operas, having produced and starred in performances of Cavalleria Rusticana and Werther. She has received numerous awards, was named People's Artist of Russia in 1973, and was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1976.
Today, Elena Obraztsova coaches other members of the Bolshoi and is a faculty member at the Moscow Conservatory.
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