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Irina Arkhipova Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Moscow, RSFSR, USSR [now Russia]
Died in Moscow, Russia  (cardiac arrest)
Birth NameIrina Konstantinovna Arkhipova

Mini Bio (1)

Irina Arkhipova was a mezzo-soprano in the great Russian tradition, best known as Carmen in the classical opera.

She was born Irina Konstantinova Arkhipova on December 2, 1925, in Moscow, Russia. Her father, Konstantin Ivanovich Vetoshkin, was a renown construction engineer in Moscow. Her mother, Evdokia Efimovna, sang at a church choir. Young Arkhipova was fond of music, she studied piano under Olga Gnesina at the Gnesin Institute. During WWII her family narrowly escaped from the advancing Nazi Armies and she was evacuated for 4 years in Tashkent. There she studied as an architect while taking singing lessons at the same time. In 1945, she was back in Moscow and continued her studies in both architecture and music. In 1951 she made her radio debut singing traditional Russian romances on the Moscow Radio. At the same time Arkhipova's architectural plans for the Moscow University and the Moscow Institute of Finance were approved and both projects were successfully built, thus propelling Arkhipova's stellar career as an accomplished architect.

But music won her heart and soul. At the age of 28, Arkhipva entered the Moscow Conservatory, where she studied with Leonid Savranski. Her first professional engagement was with the Yekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) opera from 1954 to 1956. In 1955, she won an international singing competition in Warsaw, which led to her joining the ensemble at the Bolshoi in Moscow, and she made her debut there in 1956 as Bizet's Carmen. For the next two decades Arkhipova dominated the mezzo repertory there, as much because of her versatility and intelligence as her exceptional qualities of voice. Among her roles were Azucena in Il trovatore, Marina in Boris Godunov, Marfa in Khovanshchina, Amneris in Aïda, Eboli in Don Carlo, Charlotte in Werther, Lyubasha in The Tsar's Bride, Pauline in The Queen of Spades, Lyubov in Mazeppa, Helen in the Bolshoi premiere of Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace, as well as roles in the premieres of Prokofiev's The Story of a Real Man and of operas by Tikhon Khrennikov and Rodion Schedrin.

She made her first appearance in the West in the 1960-61 season as Carmen at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples and in Opera of Rome. In 1963 she made a sensational tour across Japan. Although European opera houses slowly adopted the stagione system with its reliance on employing guest singers ad hoc, the political exigencies of the Cold War meant that her appearances outside the communist bloc in the years of her prime, the 1960s and 1970s, were fewer than her admirers would have liked. Her debut at La Scala, Milan, followed in 1964 when she appeared with the Bolshoi company as Helen, Marina and Pauline. In 1967 she returned there to sing Marfa and Marina, this time alongside mainly Italian casts, and again in 1971 (Marfa) and 1973 (Marina). The Bolshoi company's visit to Paris in 1969 was the occasion of her first appearances at the Paris Opéra.

In 1972 she made her US debut in San Francisco as Amneris, and the same year she sang Azucena at Orange County. Her reception at Covent Garden in 1975 at her debut there, also as Azucena, was equally enthusiastic. Alan Blyth wrote: "In countless phrases . . . she pierced beneath the surface of a star-studded performance to what Verdi and the music really mean." Sadly, Arkhipova was not heard again in London until 1988, by when she had had the best of her voice, and sang a "rather muted" Mine Arvidson in Un ballo in maschera. In 1992 she made a belated debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, with the Kirov Opera company as the old Countess in The Queen of Spades.

During her 40-year career, Arkhipova sung in over 40 different operatic roles. She recorded over twenty operas and also made several solo albums, which sold millions of copies. Of one of her records the critic J. B. Steane commented: "Her voice rings out strong and clear, without divisions of register and with complete freedom from throaty constrictions . . . a gloriously healthy sound." He thought her the best Russian singer of the 1960s, and the chance of hearing her a more than adequate reason on its own for facing the inconveniences that then beset the traveler to Russia.

Despite an addiction, common in Russian singers of her time, to a distinctly old-fashioned range of gesture, Arkhipova came vividly to life on stage. Her voice, in its best days, was a magnificent mezzo-soprano of a weight and range that made her consistently successful also in the darkest contralto parts. She was a master of the art of acting with the voice; her early recording of Carmen's Seguedille was called by Rodney Milnes "quite wonderful: light, playful yet forceful ... and gloriously musical". Her Marina with the Bolshoi was described as "authoritatively sung, sharply characterized".

Irina Arkhipova is in the Russian national hall of fame as the singer with most prizes, awards and decorations. A small planet No 4424 is named Arkhipova in her honor. She was designated Honorable Actress of Russia and People's Actress of the USSR, and also received numerous awards and decorations from the Soviet state and from the Russian government. Arkhipova was active in various cultural projects in Russia and internationally. She sang for dignitaries and politicians, such as Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, Queen Elizabeth II, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope John Paul II and other international figures. Among the highlights of her career were performances at the Bolshoi Theatre, Kirov Opera, Covent Garden Opera, Paris Opera, Metropolitan Opera and at many other classical venues across the world.

Arkhipova was president of the Tchaikovsky International Competition for 30 years. In addition, she was a jury member of international competitions in Athens (Maria Callas), Barcelona (Francisco Vinas), Munich, Sofia, New York (Rosa Ponselle), Tokyo (Minon), Brussels (Queen Elizabeth), Bussetto (Voci Verdiane), Treviso (Mario del Monaco) and Cardiff (BBC). For 40 years she was professor at the Moscow Conservatory and many of her students have become prize-winners in international competitions and are performing in opera houses around the world. She was vice president of The Academy of the Creative Arts and president of both the International Union of Musicians and the Irina Arkhipova Foundation in Moscow.

Irina Arkhipova wrote three books: 'My Muzes' (1992), 'Music of My Life' (1997) and 'I am the brand' (2005). She was married to singer Vladislav Piavko and the couple had one son. She died of a heart failure on February 11, 2010, aged 84, and was laid to rest next to Russian culture luminaries in Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, Russia.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Spouse (1)

Vladislav Pyavko (? - ?)

Trivia (3)

Russian opera singer (mezzo-soprano).
She sang at major opera venues across Europe and the US, including Covent Garden and La Scala.
She was a member of the faculty at the Moscow Conservatory.

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