Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

Jan 6, 2014

Kuznetsova-Benois Maria (Soprano) (Odessa, Ukraine 1880 – Paris 1966)




She was at first a ballet dancer at the Alexandra Theatre in St. Petersburg before studying singing with Joachim Tartakov in that same city. Her opera debut (1905) was at the Mariinsky Theatre as Marguerite in Faust. It wasn't long before she was regarded as one of the most brilliant, beautiful, and sensitive singers of her time, but like Lina Cavalieri, perhaps many of the kudos were generated by her own persistent and public self-advertisements. In 1908 she was invited to the Paris Opéra, where she repeated the vocal successes she had in St. Petersburg, and even appeared (with only mild success) as Potiphar's wife in a 1914 Paris ballet production of La Légende de Saint Joseph (R. Strauss) with Serge Diaghilev as Potiphar. At the Monte Carlo Opera she was engaged to premiere two operas by Massenet. In 1912 she created Fausta in Roma in which she was called "a feast to the eyes" and "the prettiest and most seductive Fausta that one might wish for." For Cléopâtre, Massenet wanted the mezzo-soprano Lucy Arbell, but after Massenet's death the 1914 world premiere was scheduled with Kousnietzoff (as she was known in France) in the title role. The dismayed Arbell instituted legal action but lost. During the litigation she contended that over 288 posthumous changes were made to Massenet's original work to accommodate a soprano instead of a contralto. Arbell did eventually sing the role in both Nantes and Bordeaux. In 1915 Kousnietzoff married a French citizen. Three years later she left Russia permanently for France. With limited success, she even organized Russian companies (the Opéra Russe) to introduce Russian opera to the French audiences. In 1920 she became a film actress. After the age of fifty she confined her appearances to recitals.

Chronology of some appearances

1905-1917 St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre Debut Faust (Marguerite)
1908 Paris Grand Opera
1909 London Covent Garden


G&T, St Petersburg 1905
A Life for the Tzar (Glinka): Ne o tom skorblyu, podruzhenki (I do not grieve about that)  23490 2921L
Traviata (Verdi): Kak stranno (E strano .... Ah, fors'е lui) 23491 2922L
Ruslan and Ludmila (Glinka): Lyubvi, roskoshnaya zvezda (Wondrous star of love .... O my Ratmir) 23488 2923L

Pathé, St Petersburg 1907?
Faust (Gounod): Le roi de Thule 24181

Pathé, Paris 1920?
Esclarmonde (Massenet): Regards-les, ces yeux 2024
Tarass Boulba (Samuel-Rousseau): Non, je n'ai pas sommeil 2023

Odeon, Paris 1926
The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky): Lisa’s aria АА 210904 b xxRu 606-2


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