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Obraztsova: Perhaps God will give me a chance to sing a little in the heavens, in the next world

On January 12 in Germany on the 76th year of life the honored actress of the USSR, a star of the Russian opera Elena Obraztsova died. In December doctors noted deterioration of health of the singer and advised her to spend the winter in Germany. The concert planned for December 11 was cancelled. Elena Obraztsova did not step on the stage any more. "GORDON" publishes interview with the opera star which she gave to Dmitry Gordon in 2011.

Elena Obraztsova: In that world our souls, it seems to me, will become transparent, people will know everything about each other
Elena Obraztsova: In that world our souls, it seems to me, will become transparent, people will know everything about each other
Photo: ERA

By Dmitry GORDON

28 centuries ago Homer puzzled over how to describe Helen of Troy, because of whom Trojan war began, to describe so that everyone understood: she was irresistible. Snow-white skin? But in some regions people adore dark-skinned girls. To compare a thin waist to a thin reed? However many tribes appreciate magnificent forms. To admire sable eyebrows? But somewhere due to fashion they are pulled out at all... Canons of beauty differ, but nevertheless the Ancient Greek poet found a universal formula: when Helen of Troy was passing by, the elders were getting up... So let me stop thinking up enthusiastic epithets like "an unfading star", "a strong voice of the Bolshoi theater", "a legend" and "femme fatale of the Russian opera", I will simply tell: when Elena Obraztsova steps on the stage of any opera of the world, everybody, from the young to the old, gets up...

The concertmeister Vazha Chachava was already going to write about her the book, but, having thought, he suddenly refused. "Why?"– Elena Vasilyevna was surprised. "Nobody will believe me",– he sighed, and he was right. Her life filled with music, love and passion, and interest will be enough for several Hollywood movies. It will be enough to tell that she had to sing with the broken hand , plastered leg, halfblind, and what screenwriter would risk to picture how the opera star goes down from a plane ladder to admirers with a string-bag with notes? It was natural to Obraztsova: even if the baggage is lost, a concert will take place anyway.

For the state treasury Elena Vasilyevna earned not one million – probably, that's why the Soviet power forgave her everything: for carrying christcross, and for not proletarian origin, after all future prima donna spent the first years in the Petersburg in huge 10-roomed apartment of her grandfather. They still remember in her family how he, being the director of some factory, forgot the suitcase with a salary for workers in the train. Money, naturally, wasn't returned, so then the grandmother carried her diamonds in "Torgsin" to get money to pay off..

The singer's father, the deputy minister of heavy mechanical engineering of the USSR, did not try to push the daughter on a scene at all– those years the clever people who endured Stalin repressions preferred to teach children other professions. Vasily Obraztsov even took away Elena to the chief conductor of the Leningrad chapel Alexander Anisimov, and, having listened to the girl, the coryphaeus authoritatively declared: "You should not sing. You should be engaged in more practical things", but she thought differently and secretly from parents entered the Leningrad conservatory. After that her father refused to talk with her for a year and, only when the daughter returned from the World festival of youth and students in Helsinki with a gold medal of competition of vocalists, he tempered justice with mercy.

Thanks to the international success young Obraztsova was noticed and invited in the Bolshoi theater It happened on a third year of study so she had to graduate from conservatory without attending lectures. After audition, the fragile girl was waiting for reception near a director's office of theater, and became involuntarily the witness of how the glorified Irina Arkhipova was asked her opinion of the talented brand new soloist. "A-a-a,– the prima donna waved away.– A child of war...": since then Elena Vasilyevna only this way presented herself to Irina Konstantinovna especially as till 40 she remained  thin woman.

Brilliant Obraztsova, certainly, was a Soviet singer, but in the export, improved, perhaps, option: immensely talented, witty, aristocratical and very hardworking. In the morning she could work  in studios, in the afternoon – to act in Dzeffirelli's movie, in the evening– to sing a performance: the scene, service to music were for Elena Vasilyevna, by her recognition, sweet penal servitude.

In total there are 85 opera parties in her repertoire and though today we are surprised how much she managed to do for her career, she would make much more, if not the order of Goskontsert according to which the actors were forbidden to be on foreign tours for more than 90 days in a row. She, the owner of a "model" mezzo-soprano, was haunted by the best opera theaters of the world.

Anyway, for me and uncountable admirers Elena Vasilyevna– is the best Carmen of the XX century, and years which she does not hide, did not lower her magnetism at all: you still can feel  the atmosphere electrified by love standing by her. "I always have a person to adore,– the singer  laughs,– only he changes", and I, for example, do not know other such opera prima donna who could also sing, easily, with Butman the jazz and "songs of my youth", to play in a scandalous performance of Viktyuk, and to step after a performance on the stage and to present to the Georgian singer Nutsa, who played Edith Piaf's role, a magnificent ring with blue topaz and 22 diamonds. Obraztsova is still capable to surprise, and I am convinced: her last aria is not sung yet.


Леночка Образцова родилась в Ленинграде, отец — инженер, мать — конструктор. В 1943-м, во время блокады, была эвакуирована вместе с семьей Фото: Из личного архива Елены Образцовой
Elena Obraztsova was born in Leningrad, her father - was an engineer, her mother - mechanician. In 1943, during blockade was evacuated with her family.


– At last, Elena Vasilyevna, we met– some years tried to agree...

– Yes, very long (laughs).

– I look at you now and think: "What a beautiful woman you are!".

– Yes? Thanks, it is pleasant to hear.

– How if not the secret, you manage to you to keep so, in spite of all hardships and anniversaries?

– I think, it is because I have a lot of objects to love and without them I do not represent the life: without people and dogs, without art– music, painting, literature...

– Do you love the art in yourself or yourself in the art?

– No, not the second (laughs) …

– There is an opinion that opera singers have to be obese, do you think so too?

– Yes, and I am now at this stage, but when I sang actively and was involved in many theaters of the world, I fought against extra kilos desperately. The whole life I kept to diets because I had very full grandmother– she, by the way, also survived during blockade and even saved her cat.

Whether the body is necessary for the opera singer? I will tell you one interesting story. When I contacted Viktyuk's theater, Roman invited me the growing old prima donna, to play in a performance on the play Maynardi of "Antonio von Elba", and Dima Bozin had to carry me there on hands, and I had a massive body then. So not to ruin the boy in youth, I got thinner for 28 kilograms in two months. I had a condensation of blood, something else, even the vestibular mechanism fell apart. It happened in August, and in September I should have sung "Aida". When I began to warm up I found out that I couldn't take very high notes. It was necessary to drink coffee with cream and eat biscuits in the mornings to regain three more kilograms and to restore a vocal form.

Khrushchev, having looked at me, told: "still wet behind the ears"

– Did you manage to restore your vocal form?

– Yes, of course, but I had such case when weight was not enough.

– So what did you with yourself when decided to keep such an exhausting diet?

– I went to London – there is the institute of weight loss – and I took some pills there, a then in general I ate nothing... Only fish, meat and salads– the rest was tabooed.


С Дмитрием Гордоном. "Смотрю на вас и думаю: "Какая же вы все-таки красивая!..". – "Спасибо, приятно слышать"
With Dmitry Gordon. "I look at you now and think: "What a beautiful woman you are!". -"Yes? Thanks, it is pleasant to hear".


– In your opinion, do female actresses need plastic surgeries? Here Lyudmila Markovna Gurchenko spoke to me about herself: only the bag under eyes will appear– to cut, only the excess fold– to cut! To cut, cut, cut!

– Well, she in the passionate desire to be young, in my opinion, overdid. I very much loved her: good woman and talented actress talented... I think that it is impossible it is hard to overzealous in this case, but, certainly, the crocodile should not step on the stage, it is better to make a plastic surgery...

– You too were under a knife?

– Yes, certainly.

– Was it painful?

– Indeed! Both blood, and pain, both fear, and experiences, and excitement, after the surgery will come to an end,– everything was, but then a satisfaction receive, and so it is pleasant...

– In a chair opposite to me the great singer of the present sits, who performed 85 opera parts. So, what was the most favourite one for you?

– From the Russian repertoire it is Marfa in "Hovanshchina"– tremendous, strong nature! Clever, passionate, politicized, but also, she loved madly ….

– In the Soviet years Bolshoy Theater was peculiar banner and an USSR symbol with special aura – we know that even Stalin liked to go there...

–... also there were fine performances, tremendous directors...

– And great singers?

– Yes, great conductors and very good singers.

– But you didn't say "great" in relation to singers...

– I will say – they were outstanding masters.


С Дмитрием Гордоном. "Мужчин я очень люблю, но умных, конечно"
With Dmitry Gordon. "I love men, but only intelligent ones"


– Some stars of Bolshoy told me that their theater – is just a hell-hole: do you agree with them?

– I cannot tell anything about that because now I am the invited actress of Bolshoy and I participate only in "Queen of spades". I cannot judge about a hell-hole, but I do not think that everything is wrong to such an extent,– no, I do not think.

– You appeared on the leading opera stages of the world, and you saw all the best opera theaters. Where did you sing more freely, more brightly and where, in your opinion, the opera atmosphere was reference?

Actors of Bolshoy couldn't get on opening of their own theater – for me it was a stab in a back

– I think in "La Scala", probably (in the Subway opera too, but less as it is a modern theater and it is constructed in a modern way). However, after repair works it also changed, and those great singers who on a Milan scene shone, now are not present. When I look at the poster of this theater, I won't to cry because we do not know any names, and actors who were invited Bolshoy opening, have names, but cannot sing at all any more. Plus they were suggested to perform the Russian repertoire, in which, frankly speaking, they are not strong. It was unpleasant, bitterly and offensively, and what is even more a pity was that to soloists of Bolshoy were not suggested to make a speech in gala concert at the opening, and the most awful that the troupe of Bolshoy on a celebration was not present because only people's artists of the Soviet Union were called...

–... and not even all of them were called...

– Yes, actors couldn't get on opening of their own theater – for me it was a stab in a back.


С Альфредо Краусом в опере Жюля Массне "Вертер". "Краус лучшим Вертером был"
With Alfredo Krauss In Jules Massenet opera "Werther". "Krauss was the best Werther".


– Who was your favourite partner ?

– Atlases, Mazourkas, of course– I adored them.

– And whom from the best opera singers of the world you happened to hear and see?

– Well, I sang with all the greatest singers, and every of them had the crown party... Alfredo Krauss, for example, the best Werther was, Placido Domingo– the best Samson. In general very few people could be compared to Domingo because the nature allocated him not with one talent, but with the combination of talents: he was the conductor, and the pianist, the singer, and the drama actor plus he is clever and handsome …

I want to die at first, and only then to stop singing, or perhaps God will give me a chance to sing a little in the heavens, in the next world

– You still rehearse for several hours a day ...

– Yes, it is the truth– recently I tried to sing here in Bolshoy the opera "Ruslan and Lyudmila", so I rehearsed for six hours: three in the morning and three in the evening.

– It is a huge physical activity ...

– An immense!

– And you still maintain standing on the feet?

– Now, at my age, it is very heavy, I even asked to make rehearse only in the morning, but in "La Scala" when we were young we rehearsed in the evening, for nine hours: from nine to 12, then from three to six and from nine till midnight. But I didn't need the conductor – we knew well each other and felt, and singers were a one family, one body.

– "What is your dream?" – journalists asked you. "To die at first, and only then to stop singing",– you answered...

– I still dream about the same – to die at first, and then only to stop singing, or perhaps God will give me a chance to sing a little in the heavens, in the next world.

– Do you believe in the existence of the next world?

– I am absolutely convinced of it!

– There is nothing better than the next world...

– I even thought up what is the hell and paradise for me– in that world our souls, it seems to me, will become transparent, peple will know everything about each other, and if the person was light and kind, so he will go to the paradise and if the a bad person he, the hell waits for him.

– It was such a pleasant time with you it was and there is no wish to leave...

– And the same for me with you...

– I will ask you finally to sing something...

– I did not expect that (laughs). Really, yes? I do not know, whether I will be able today, but it is possible to try (sings):

На улице дождик
Землю поливает.
 
Землю поливает,
Брат сестру качает.
Ой, люшеньки-люли,
Брат сестру качает...
Вырастешь большая,
Отдадут тя замуж.
Отдадут тя замуж
В деревню чужую...
Ну вот...

– So sad...

– Or I can try this way (sings in Italian): "Vorrei baciare i tuoi capelli neri" – "I would like to kiss your black hair..."!

– Bravo, Elena Vasilyevna, bravo!

The original article could be read at the Russian version of the GORDON.

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