Varya Panina - Biography



Varvara Vasilievna Panina (Vasilieva) was born in 1872 in Moscow into a family of a petty trader, a gypsy by birth. As a 14-year old girl she was put to the Moscow “Strelna” restaurant’s choir, conducted by the Gypsy woman singer Aleksandra Ivanovna Panina. After marrying Panina’s nephew, who was a chorister, she started to perform in the restaurant “Yar” with her own gypsy choir. In “Yar” Varya Panina soon gained fame with her solo singing, and her glory spread around Moscow at once. In spite of profitable offers from impresarios for a long time she refused to leave “Yar”. In 1902 the impresario Semyonov induced her to perform in a solo concert in the Petersburg Nobility Assembly Hall (nowadays Big Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic). The concert was a triumphant success, launching the singer’s breathtaking career. Varya Panina finally parted with “Yar” and started to tour around various Russian cities as a soloist performer of the gypsy romance. The concert activity was getting more and more successful. Panina came to be called the “Queen of Gypsy romance song”. “Celestial Varya Panina” – this is what the poet Alexander Blok called her. Writers Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Shalyapin, Alexander Kuprin, Anton Chekhov, and artist Konstantin Korovin were among the admirers of her talent. Varya Panina was endowed with a great original talent and outstanding musicality. Her voice, immensely deep and of rare beauty, its range reminding of the violoncello, and her manner of singing, deeply dramatic and contagiously emotional, though outwardly reserved, were captivating for the listeners. Not once her contemporaries noted that the singer produced the greatest impression when singing in modest chamber surroundings rather than in large concert halls.




“Celestial Varya Panina” – Alexander Blok once wrote in his diary. The poet liked to listen to gramophone records of the famous singer: “I met Remizov, we had gramophone going, mainly with Varya Panina” – another page of the diary says. Alexander Kuprin also wrote about “the last of the Mohicans” of gypsy song with great respect: “I listened – alas, only on the gramophone - to Varya Panina. In absence I understand what enormous power and beauty harboured in this deep, nearly man’s voice”.

The artist Konstantin Korovin once took the liberty of opposing Varya Panina’s singing to the music art of his friend Fyodor Shalyapin.

Varvara Panina died of a heart disease, aged 38, on the 10th of June 1911. Thousands of Muscovites went to accompany the singer’s coffin to the Vagankovskoe Cemetery. Lots of remarkable figures of Russian art came to bid her farewell.

Нищая (A Beggar) - romance of A. Alyabjev on words of P. Beranzhe, russian text belongs to A. Lenin.


It is romance about fate of old actress. She was beautiful, famous and reach She had a lot of admirers and friends. But once she lost her voice and sight and became beggar. All, whom she knew forgot her and she had to stand near church and to ask for alms.

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