Monday, November 10, 2014

Uncovering Elena Obraztsova Treasures As 75 Years Is Celebrated

Operatic Tsaritsa: The legendary
 Elena Obraztsova
For over 50 years, Elena Obraztsova has been a fixture on the operatic scene. Her debut was at the Bolshoi Theater in a production of Boris Godunov in 1963 and as of last week the performer was still singing with plenty of full voice during a gala celebrating her 75th birthday with stars like Anna Netrebko, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Maria Guleghina, José Cura, Julia Lezhneva, Hibla Gerzmava and Olga Peretyatko. In her native Mother Russia, Ms. Obraztsova recorded a trove of music for the label Melodiya over the years. The label was later acquired by EMI and many of the recordings never made it to the CD format barring the arias disc with Giuseppe Patanè that first appeared in Japan and eventually on Russian import. Thanks to the scrupulous work of Melodiya digitizing much of the mezzo-soprano's back catalog, these albums are now available in MP3 format and reveal a surprising depth for the song repertoire by this monumental artist. The majority of her recorded legacy features the works of Soviet neo-romantic composer Georgy Sviridov. Music recorded between 1977-1983, with the composer at the piano, shows how the opera singer placed her esteem of his work alongside Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff whose works she also laid down for posterity. Whether arias,
One of the prized solo recordings to 
make a commercial release worldwide.
romances, or folk songs, it is clear that Ms. Obraztsova was first and foremost a nationalist. The most surprising treat in the discography is a disc of Schumann lieder featuring the complete Frauenliebe und leben alongside excerpts from Liederkreis, 12 Gedichte, Myrthen, and 6 Gedichte von N. Lenau und Requiem. Her rendition of "Mondnacht" rivals that of German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Next to the contributions of fellow Russian stars Irina Arkhipova and Galina Vishnevskaya, the collection of music put forth by Elena Obraztsova is admirable. There are still albums of hers not available to the public, including a disc of Bach & Händel arias, Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, Vivaldi's GloriaCavalleria Rusticana with tenor Zurab Sotkilava, Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, Brahm's Rhapsody for Alto, and a collection of Viennese operetta with conductor Algis Ziuraitis, but there are others still in print on various labels including Deutsche Grammophon (Un Ballo in Maschera, Aida, Alexander Nevsky, Werther, Samson et Dalila, Rigoletto), Sony (Adriana Lecouvreur), Decca (Cavalleria Rusticana, Andrea Chénier), EMI (Nabucco), as well as a slew of recordings on private labels and live performance documents. After the jump: Learn 
more about Elena Obraztsova, see all of the recordings currently available digitally, and watch the 75th birthday concert in its entirety.
Elena Obraztsova stands center stage as international opera stars pay hommage last week.

Click on the covers to listen to excerpts 
and purchase each album:

"Elena Vasiliyevna Obraztsova (Russian: Елена Васильевна Образцова) (born July 7, 1939 in Leningrad, Soviet Union) is a Russian mezzo-soprano, widely recognised as one of the greatest opera singers of all time, thanks to her outstanding stage presence and the vocal abilities. As a child Obraztsova lived in Leningrad through the long siege (August 1941-January 1943) during World War II. In 1954-1957 Obraztsova studied in the Tchaikovsky musical college in Taganrog and frequently participated in concerts onstage of Taganrog Theatre. In 1957-1958 Obraztsova studied in Rostov on Don's music school. In August 1958 Yelena Obraztsova passed the examinations and became a student at the Leningrad Conservatory. In 1963 she was invited to perform in a Bolshoi Theater production of Boris Godunov in Moscow. Her introduction to the opera houses of Europe and the world was a recital in the Salle Pleyel in Paris. She has played many roles throughout her career, including performances under the baton of such leading conductors as Claudio Abbado and Herbert von Karajan. In December 1977 she opened the 200th opera season in La Scala singing Don Carlos's Eboli with Abbado as conductor. In 1978 she played the title role of Carmen opposite Plácido Domingo in Franco Zeffirelli's television production of the opera. She also appeared as Santuzza in Zeffirelli's film version of Cavalleria rusticana in 1982. On 27 December 1990 she was awarded the title of the Hero of Socialist Labor (mark of distinction - 'Hammer and Sickle; gold medal ), Order of Lenin by the President of USSR for her contribution to the development of Soviet Music. In June 2007 Obraztsova was appointed artistic director of opera at the Mikhaylovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. She also trains young soloists in her own cultural center in St. Petersburg. Obraztsova still appears regularly on stage at the Mikhailovsky in the role of the Countess in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. In 2008 Obraztsova ended her artistic director contract with the Mikhailovsky to concentrate on the competition of her name and the recently announced project of International Academy of Music in St Petersburg. Obraztsova continues her collaboration with the Mikhailovsky in a capacity of the General Director's Artistic Advisor. On 7 July 2009, Obraztsova's 70th birthday was marked with a special program at the Mikhailovsky Theater that included ballet performances, opera arias, excerpts from films, and jazz and piano recitals. Elena Obraztsova expresses her support for the International Delphic Games. Greetings with her signature came to the III Delphic Games 2009 in Jeju / South Korea, under the motto 'In Tune with Nature,' and to the IV Junior Delphic Games 2011 in Johannesburg / South Africa with their motto 'Provoke, Innovate, Inspire.'" [Source]

Glinka State Prize of the RSFSR (1st prize) (1962)
1970 - Viñas prize (1st prize, International Vocal Competition in Barcelona)
Honoured Artist of the RSFSR
1970 Tchaikovsky prize (1st prize)
Order of the Red Banner of Labour, twice (1971, 1980)
Glinka State Prize of the RSFSR - for concerts and theatrical activities 1971-1972 period (1973)
People's Artist of the RSFSR (1973)
Lenin Prize - for concert programs in 1973-1974 and the roles of Froska, Carmen, Azucena in the Operas "Simeon Kolko", Prokofiev's "Carmen" by Bizet, "Il Trovatore" by Verdi (1976)
People's Artist of USSR (1976)
Hero of Socialist Labour (27 December 1990) - for outstanding contributions to the development of Soviet musical art
Order of Lenin (27 December 1990)
Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 3rd class (17 June 1999) - for outstanding contribution to the development of musical art
Casta Diva prize (2002)
Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 2nd class (10 June 2009) - for outstanding contribution to music and many years of fruitful creative activity
Order of the Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow, 1st class (Russian Orthodox Church, 2009) - in consideration of his labours for the good of the Church and in connection with her 70th birthday

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