Anastasia Vyaltseva - Biography
Anastasia Dmitrievna Vyaltseva (Biskupskaya after her husband) was born in 1871 in Altukhovo Village near the town of Trubchevsk, the Orlov Province.
After moving to Saint Petersburg Anastasia Vyaltseva started to take singing classes from Chairman of the Petersburg Vocal Society S.M. Sonki. She started her stage career in Kiev as an extra in the ballet company of S.S. Lenchevski (1887). In 1893 she performed in the opera company of the Moscow theatreAquarium and then in the company of S.M. Palm – first in Moscow, and then in Saint Petersburg. The year 1897 saw the first solo concert of Anastasia Vyaltseva in the Moscow theatre The Hermitage - it made a sensational success in the variety circles.
“For three years I did not take the stage, constantly working on development of my voice to undergo serious learning for the future performing activity. Then Mr. Shchukin, the famous Moscow entrepreneur, saw me and invited to the main roles in the Hermitage Theatre in Moscow, and then I became the «Vyaltseva» - the singer herself recalled.
After Anastasia Vyaltseva’s first concert furor theatres in eager rivalry offered her the most beneficial contracts. Her very first tour around cities of Russia spilled over into true triumph of the new star.
“The famous “Vyaltseva’s smile” won everyone and everything. The audience made her sing encores ten to twenty times at every concert” – an eyewitness accounted. In spite of the extensive touring in provinces and tireless concert activity in the capitals, she went on performing in operetta plays. Occasionally she also took part in operas, including those in the Mariinsky Theater. The contemporaries noted special beauty of Vyaltseva’s voice, sincerity of her singing and original observation of the phrasing.
In the early 20th century Vyaltseva enjoyed enormous popularity; she was called “Seagull of Russian variety art” and ‘Russian Cinderella”, who turned from a simple housemaid into one of the richest and most famous women in Russia. Concerts of the “peerless” singer were always a great success and her gramophone records were extremely long-run.
Anastasia Vyaltseva lived in Saint Petersburg, at 84, Moika Embankment (the house now has a memorial plate) and owned several houses on the embankment of Karpovka River – later she devised them to the city.
In the beginning of 1913 news spread around Petersburg that Vyaltseva had blood cancer. Reports of her health conditions were displayed on newspaper booths. Her husband, Officer Vasili Biskupski, in spite of the severe injury he had suffered in the Russian-Japanese war became her blood donor, but nothing saved her.
Anastasia Vyaltseva died at the age of 42 on 5 (18) February 1913. The grave of the outstanding singer is located at Nikolskoe Cemetery of the Alexander Nevski Monastery, St. Petersburg.
At the end of the 20th century the personality and fate of Anastasia Vyaltseva became the prototype of the main character of the novel The Green Watersides(Zelyonye Berega) by Gennady Alekseyev, a wonderful poet and master of Russian vers libre.
She was, indeed, regal! Remarkably beautiful, with gorgeous stage outfits (her trademark dress – a flowing white one with a garland of flowers made of precious stones across her shoulder. Like everything else she wore it cost a great deal). She was extremely wealthy, received awesome royalties (20 thousand gold roubles for a concert – certainly, nobody else in Russia earned so much!). She traveled all over the world in her own carriage, fitted out as only royalty could afford. A whole escort accompanied her, and wherever she arrived there were always crowds of fans and avid admirers…
And what an atmosphere there was at her concerts! – The public raved, police were invariably assigned to watch guard at her performances, and they had their work cut out for them. Moans, cries, whistling and even broken furniture (does that remind you of anything? Indeed, today’s mega-stars enjoy such popularity! Well, she was a precursor of today’s celebrities – a regal queen of the Russian variety stage, performer of ballads and songs, Anastasia Vyaltseva)…
Vyaltseva never planned what she would be singing at a concert: she tried to accommodate the wishes of the audience! She could sing her way through a whole concert, and then as an encore – another …30 or so compositions – in itself another whole concert! Her performances ended late at night. And so it went for almost 20 years of her brilliant career!
She toured half the world with concerts – her meticulous fans counted up that she had traversed a route equal… to half the distance from the earth to the moon! And always, wherever she went, her success was tremendous!
“What is your secret?” reporters queried. Smiling regally, she replied, “It’s all very simple: I sing of things that everyone can relate to. And she sang to the raving audience her endless ballads of love…”
Anastasia Vyaltseva… A queen, who emerged out of the distant province, an impoverished family. She started out as a maid in a provincial hotel. A true Cinderella story…
Cinderella liked to say, “I am a peasant woman” and stretched forth her creamy-white, ideally pampered hands, gleaming with precious stones. However, any affectations were easily forgiven her: they simply gazed at her in sheer idolatry.
When she fell ill, in the town where she lived, St.Petersburg, regular health bulletins came out several times a day: how she was feeling, what her mood was like… She died in 1912, at the age of 42, from an illness that is still not always easily cured – leukemia. Some 150 thousand people accompanied her on her last journey…