Mariya Kuznetsova Wiki, Age, Biography, Height, Husband, Family, Images, And More

Mariya Kuznetsova Wiki, Age, Biography, Height, Husband, Family, Images, And More

Maria Nikolaevna Kuznetsova (22 July [O.S. 10 July] 1880 – 25 April 1966) (Russian: aри иколаевна унеова, often spelled Maria Kuznetsova-Benois) was a Russian opera singer and dancer of the twentieth century.

Prior to the Revolution, Kuznetsova was one of Imperial Russia's most known opera singers, having collaborated with Richard Strauss, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Jules Massenet. Feodor Chaliapin was frequently partnered with her. Kuznetsova continued to perform for another thirty years after fleeing Russia in 1917 before retiring.


Kuznetsova, the daughter of portraitist Nikolai Kuznetsov, was born in Odessa in 1880. Kuznetsova's mother came from a prominent family of Romanian and Russo-Jewish scientists and thinkers.

Emilia (Nevakhovich) Metchnikoff, her maternal grandmother, was the daughter of Lev Nevakhovich (1776-1831), a Russo-Jewish author, translator, and pioneer of the Haskalah movement in Russia. Emilia married Ilya Metchnikoff, a Guards officer, and had two sons, Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist Élie Metchnikoff and sociologist Lev Metchnikoff.

Mikhail and Aleksandr Nevakhovich, Kuznetsova's great-uncles, were also successful athletes. Mikhail was a cartoonist and the originator of Mish-Mash (Eralash), Russia's first satirical magazine. During the reign of Nicholas I, Aleksandr was a playwright and the repertory director of Imperial Theaters in Saint Petersburg.

Early life and career

Kuznetsova studied dance in Saint Petersburg, Russia, before switching to music with baritone Joachim Tartakov. Kuznetsova was a lyrical soprano with a lovely singing voice. She also has considerable acting talent. Igor Stravinsky said her "appealing to look at as well as hear."

In 1904 she made her debut as Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Kuznetsova made her second appearance at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1905 as Marguérite in Charles Gounod's Faust. A conflict between students and army officers erupted in the theater's foyer one night, not long after Kuznetsova made her Mariinsky debut, while she was singing the role of Elsa in Wagner's Lohengrin. Before panic arose, an unaffected Kuznetsova interrupted the performance, and she swiftly calmed the crowd by leading everyone in a rousing rendition of the Russian patriotic anthem God Save The Tsar!.

She was a soloist at the Mariinsky for twelve years, until the Revolution in 1917. Kuznetsova originated several roles during her long career, including Fevroniya in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya, the title role in Massenet's Cléopâtre, Woglinde in the first Russian production of Wagner's Das Rheingold, and Fausta in another Massenet creation, Roma. Other signature roles included Oksana in Tchaikovsky's Cherevichki, Thaïs in Massenet's Thaïs, Violetta in Verdi's La traviata, The Snow Maiden in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden, Mimi in Puccini's La bohème, Antonida in Glinka's A Life for the Tsar, Lyudmila in Ruslan and Ludmila and Tamara in Anton Rubinstein's The Demon.

Kuznetsova subsequently gained a large international following, making her Paris Opera debut in 1908 and her London debut at Covent Garden in 1909. She performed in Emmanuel Chabrier's Gwendoline (1910) and Jules Massenet's Roma (1912) during this time period.

Kuznetsova made her American debut in 1916, performing in New York and Chicago. She made a splash in New York when she appeared in the first American staging of Cleopatre with the Manhattan Opera Company.

The Russian Ballets

On the brink of World War I, Kuznetsova performed in and helped finance Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes' legendary Les Saisons Russes in London and Paris.

Kuznetsova got the role of Potiphar's wife in Richard Strauss's ballet La Légende de Joseph (or Josephslegende) in 1914 with the help of her acquaintance, the artist and designer Léon Bakst. The cast of the show was a true who's who of Edwardian art. Diaghilev produced it, Strauss scored and directed it, Michel Fokine choreographed it, Bakst and José Maria Sert designed it, and Léonide Massine performed the lead.

It was a big part, and she was in good company, but they were on a tight timetable with little time to practice. To make matters worse, Strauss was irritated because his lover, Ida Rubinstein, who was supposed to dance Lydia Sokolova's role, had abruptly dropped out of the project. Furthermore, Strauss despised working with French musicians and was frequently at odds with the orchestra. Meanwhile, Diaghilev had not yet recovered from Vaslav Nijinsky's departure from the Ballets Russes the previous year.

Despite the troubles backstage and an incensed British press that thought the work disgusting, the ballet premiered well in both London and Paris that spring, according to the New York Times:

PARIS, 14 MAY - The Russian ballet season began tonight at the Opera with the premiere of Richard Strauss's "The Legend of St. Joseph."...
Leonide Miassine, a young member of Moscow's "Artists Theatre" who joined M. Diaghilew's ballet company for this purpose, played Joseph admirably. Mme Kousnetzoff temporarily stopped singing in order to impersonate Potiphar's wife...

A packed house was clearly overjoyed.

Sert's sumptuous Venetian themed sets and Bakst's costumes were deemed to be the most memorable aspects of the play. Sokolova remembered Kuznetsova's costume as particularly inspired: she walked around in high gilded clogs, accompanied by attendants, two of whom had a couple of honey-colored wolfhounds on white leads...

Kuznetsova participated in numerous operas that season, in addition to trying her hand at ballet. On June 8, 1914, she performed with the famed Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin in a production of Borodin's Prince Igor choreographed by Fokine and staged at Drury Lane.

Exiled life

Kuznetsova fled Russia during the 1917 Revolution, making a sufficiently dramatic escape dressed as a cabin boy and stowed inside a steamer trunk onboard a ship bound for Sweden. In 1919, she made her debut appearance in exile with the Stockholm Opera.

Later that year, she joined Lucien Fugère, Maria Barrientos, Lydia Lipkowska, Georgette Leblanc, André Gilly, and Vanni Marcoux at the Gaiété-Lyrique in Paris.

Kuznetsova performed at a huge charity concert at the Paris Opéra in 1920, alongside Vera Karalli and others, to collect funds for needy fellow Russian émigrés.

Kuznetsova's other performances in the 1920s were more utilitarian and less charitable. She planned private concerts and recitals in which she performed Russian and Spanish traditional music, Gypsy music, and opera. After singing, she would frequently perform Spanish folk dances and Flamenco during these presentations. Kuznetsova also worked as a soloist in Covent Garden, the Copenhagen Opera House, and other theaters and opera houses throughout Europe, in addition to these private appearances. In 1922, she co-founded the Theatre of Miniatures with Léon Bakst, where she performed for a short time.

Kuznetsova launched the Opéra Russe à Paris in 1927 with the assistance of Ukrainian baritone Mikhail Karakash and his wife Elizaveta Popova, as well as Count Alexis Ceretelli. Between 1927 and 1933, the Opéra Russe produced ballets and operas in London, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, and as far away as Buenos Aires and Japan. In May 1935, she also performed in Shanghai.

Kuznetsova did fewer performances after 1933, but her name appeared on the program of a choreographic competition presented by Rolf de Maré in Copenhagen in 1947. Her contribution to the event was succinctly described as "Songs and dances of Spain, by Maria Kousnetzoff and a flamenco group."

Individual life and death

Nikolai Albertovich Benois, the son of watercolorist Albert Nikolayevich Benois (1852-1936), was Kuznetsova's first husband.

After Benois died, Kuznetsova married Jules Massenet's nephew, financier and businessman Alfred Massenet. Prior to the Revolution, Alfred worked as the president of the Société d'Industrie Minière de Chagali-Heliar, a French copper mining firm headquartered in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Kuznetsova spent her final years in poverty, living in a single room at a modest hotel near the Champs Elysees, abandoned by her son Mikhael and former colleagues and acquaintances. Olga, Kuznetsova's dresser, was her main company, and she supported herself by teaching singing and acting courses. Olga liked to tell how Chaliapin died in Kuznetsova's arms, despite his wife's desires.

Kuznetsova died on April 25, 1966, in Paris.

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