Moscow’s luxury casts in the 1970s

Moscow’s luxury casts in the 1970s


norman lebrecht

May 29, 2020

These mezzos were all staff singers at the Bolshoi. And that’s just the mezzos.

Here’s Arkhipova years kater, still giong strong in her 6os.


  • Alan K says:

    If it was so luxurious in the 1970s, then why did the Soviets prevent so many artists from traveling to the west? Living in the USSR in the 1970s was not very luxurious if one was a dissident or a Jew seeking to escape persecution. One could have written that the Berlin Philharmonic was luxurious in the 1930s

  • Uncle S says:

    From somebody who was lucky enough to hear both Arkhipova and Obraztsova live in concert halls in Minsk and (then) Leningrad on several occasions – thank you, Norman, for posting this! Believe or not, there was yet ANOTHER great mezzo as permanent cast member of Bolshoi at the same time – Tamara Sinyavskaya (who, by the way, in 1970 shared the 1st Prize with Obraztsova at the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow – with Maria Callas being a jury member!). She (Sinyavskaya) is the youngest of all four – and the only one alive today. Here she is – in 1971:

    and in 1979:

    All four – gorgeous ladies with unforgettable voices!

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Thank you for all this. Indeed, Sinyavskaya sounds very special. What is she singing in the 1979 clip?

      Actually I like her Seguidilla much more than Obraszova’s in the gorgeous Vienna 1978 Carmen, under Carlos Kleiber, directed by the Zefirelli.

      • Uncle S says:

        Petros, that 1979 clip is a very well-known and often-performed in Russia piece by Mikhail Glinka, written in 1825 (with the text from the wonderful melancholic 1821 small poem by the Russian poet Yevgeny Baratynsky).
        Here it is performed in 1981 by Arkhipova, her husband and frequent partner, tenor Vladislav Pyavko (it is him as Samson in the top clip in the original post, too) and the string group of the Bolshoi Theater’s Orchestra. The quality of video and audio leaves A LOT to be desired, but the singing does come through nevertheless…

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Wonderful. Thank you so much.

          Beyond the Russlan and Ludmilla ouverture, Glinka’s music seems like one of the best kept secrets in the west. I hope this will change. Personally I have enjoyed exploring his piano music, in my living room (I am not
          a pro).

  • IP says:

    The real colossus is Arkhipova. I believe she held a diploma in architecture. If they were staff singers it is because they were not free to travel. No survey of Soviet era mezzos can be complete without Zara (Zarukhi) Dolukhanova (Dolukhanian)

    • Paul Carlile says:

      Agreed, absolutely. I never heard Zara Dolukhanova in concert, but was lucky enough to hear Arkhipova twice in recital, really superb from all points of view; vocal quality, artistry and presence. Her MK/Melodiya LPs came out just at a time when their recording/production values had improved from the previous generation, from which Dolukhanova, unfortunately, suffered, with poor sound, balance, sleeve notes..(ye gods!). Even so, one appreciates the qualities of these wonderful singers.

    • fred says:

      arkhipova was already allowed to travel in 1960 when she sang Carmen in Naples thanks to mario del monaco who was her don josé another giant with a big heart (and yeah a big ego too:))

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    I was fortunate enough to listen to Irina Arkhipova’s Tchaikovski/Rachmaninov recital in the Grand Théâtre de Genève, Nov. 1990. Ilijia Ivary at the piano.
    The former Directeur, Hugues Gall, didn’t offer Madame Arkhipova la Grande Salle and not very elegantly relegated the artist in the modest foyer, upsetting us all music students.
    The 65 years old Arkhipova entered the foyer with terrible old-fashioned dress and hairstyle, but as soon as she opened her mouth, audience got stuck to their chairs!
    Intense singing, magnificent voice, great artistic involvement,infinite subtlety and nuances, splendid storyteller. Simplicity, no diva attitude.
    The packed foyer was to small to contain our enthusiasm!