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 Nadezhda Plevitskaya

Born:   17 January 1884
Deceased:   1 October 1940

folk singer


Life of the folk singer Nadezhda Vasilievna Plevitskaya (1884-1941) – a daughter of the peasant Vasily Vinnikov from the Kursk Province – was full of surprising, almost improbable events.

Nadezhda Plevitskaya (born Vinnikova) was born in the village of Vinnikovo near Kursk and finished three years in a village school; her love of singing, inherited from her mother and father, brought her to the church chorus of the Trinity Monastery in Kursk, where she stayed as a novice for more than two years. In 1899 she escaped from the monastery and joined a vagrant circus troupe, then served as a parlourmaid in a merchant house, and in 1904, having moved to Kiev, became a chorister in L.B.Linkin's Russian chorus, where after a while she started to perform solo parts. Later she joined Shteyn’s ballet troupe, where she met the former soloist of the ballet of Warsaw Theatre Edmond Plevitsky and married him.

Under the surname of Plevitskaya she performed in the chorus of Minkevich, and then at the well-known Moscow restaurant “Yar”, where she gained fame and glory as an impressive performer of Russian folk songs. In 1909 she sang with enormous success at the Nizhniy Novgorod fair. This is where she was heard by Leonid Sobinov, who was then touring Nizhni Novgorod. He invited Plevitskaya to perform with him and N.N.Figner at a charity concert in the city’s theatre. It was Plevitskaya’s debut on a big concert stage. In a year already she gave successful concerts in Petersburg and Moscow. Her triumphal tours around cities of Russia started. The press did not stint enthusiastic praises to the talented singer. Her performing talent was highly appreciated by Feodor Chaliapin, Constantine Stanislavski and other outstanding figures of art.

Plevitskaya had a rare gift of musicality and the flexible and succulent voice – a mezzo-soprano of great range. Her repertoire, along with popular variety miniatures of low artistic level, had excellent samples of Russian peasant folklore of the Kursk Province, and also some songs of the city life, which have kept their value and significance till this day.

Her manner of singing won the audience with her great sincerity, richness of intonations, expressive recitation and extremely subtle and deep feeling of the beauty of Russian language.

In 1910 there appeared first gramophone records of Plevitskaya, the copies were sold in great numbers. From 1910 to 1936 the singer made more than 120 records for various gramophone companies.

During First World War Plevitskaya gave concerts for Russian soldiers, and during the civil war – for the Red Army soldiers.

The year 1919 marked a tragic crisis in the life of Nadezhda Plevitskaya. Being in a unit of the Red Army near Kursk together with her second husband, the former Officer Levitsky, she was taken prisoner by the White Guards, and then together with the husband evacuated to Turkey.

When in emigration the singer toured a lot in cities of the Western Europe and America. In 1926 she performed together with Sergei Rachmaninoff, who had made piano arrangements of some Russian folk songs from her repertoire. At his insistence the company ‘Victor’ made a record of the folk reel song You, My Ceruse, My Rouge (Belilitsy, rumyanitsy vy moyi) performed by Plevitskaya to the accompaniment of Rachmaninoff.

In 1937 Plevitskaya was arrested by the French government in connection with mysterious abduction of General E.K.Miller, head of the Russian General Military Union. Plevitskaya’s third husband Nikolai Skoblin – a real participant of abduction of General Evgeny Miller – had disappeared. Despite lacking of direct evidence, the French court condemned Plevitskaya as involved in this issue and sentenced her to 20 years of convict prison.

In 1941 during Hitler occupation the singer perished in one of the prisons of Alsace-Lorraine.

The singer died in terrible conditions far from her motherland, but her voice is still alive in her powerful songs that have come down to us.

Tags: Russian music Russian singers    

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