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Entries / Semenova E.S., (1786-1849), actress

Semenova E.S., (1786-1849), actress

Categories / Art/Music, Theatre/Personalia

SEMENOVA Ekaterina Semenovna (married name Princess Gagarina) (1786 - 1849, St. Petersburg), actress. Graduated from the Petersburg Drama School (1805). Made her debut on the professional stage in 1803. In 1805-26 (in 1820-22 with breaks), she was a part of the Petersburg Imperial Troupe, which performed at the Bolshoy (Stone) Theatre, the Maly (Wooden) Theatre, and the Hermitage Theatre. She began playing sentimental roles, particularly in dramas by A. Kotzebue. She also performed in Russian plays by N.I. Ilyin, P.A. Plavilshchikov, and Y.B. Knyazhnin. In 1805-07, she began working with Prince A.A. Shakhovsky, who was out in charge of the repertoire, becoming head of the troupe. In 1807, she began working with N.I. Gnedich. With her expressive dynamic, beautiful sturdy voice, her melodious speech, her sincerity, swift and natural shifts of mood, and the heroic bent to her acting, she quickly advanced to the position of the leading Russian tragic actress. V. A. Ozerov's tragic characters brought back pre-romantic aspects in her performance (Antigone in Oedipus in Athens, 1804; Moina in Fingal, 1805; Xenia in Dimitry Donskoy, 1807; Polyxena in Polyxena, 1809). The majority of Semenova's contemporaries considered her to be the winner of a creative duel with celebrated French actress M.J.W. George (who performed in Russia in 1808-12 with the same French repertoire). Semenova performed with emotional richness and played up the national facets of Russian Theatrical Tragedy. Alexander Pushkin praised her "refinement of animated movements," "outbursts of true inspiration," and the originality of her unsurpassable talent. Her best-known parts include Clytemnestra in Iphigenia in Aulis (1815), Hermiona in Andromache (1810), Phaedra in Phaedra (1823) by J. Racine, Amenaide in Tancredi (1809), Merope in Merope (1811), Zaire in Zaire (1809) by Voltaire, Maria Stuart in Maria Stuart by H.G. Spiess (1810), Ariane in Ariane by T. Corneille (1811), Medea in Medea by I.B. Longepierre (1819), Cordelia (1807) and Ophelia (1810) in interpretations of Shakespeare's plays King Lear and Hamlet. Semenova also performed in comic operas and comedies by I.A. Krylov, N.I. Khmelnitsky, and A. Duval. In 1827, she moved to Moscow with Prince I. A. Gagarin, married him, and ended her career as a performer. In the last period of her life, she frequented St. Petersburg on family affairs. Before her move to Moscow, she lived in one of her future husband's residences on Millionnaya Street, close to the Winter Palace. At the end of her life, she rented a flat on Fontanka River Embankment, close to Obukhov Bridge. Originally buried at Mitrofanievskoe Cemetery, in 1936 she was reburied, with her tombstone remounted, at the Necropolis of the Artists.

Reference: Беньяш Р. М. Катерина Семенова. Л., 1987.

A. A. Kirillov.

Corneille Pierre
Duval А.
Gagarin Ivan Alexeevich, Duke
George (real name Weimer) Marguerite Josephine
Gnedich Nikolay Ivanovich
Ilyin Nikolay Ivanovich
Khmelnitsky Nikolay Ivanovich
KnyazhninYakov Borisovich
Kotzebue Otto Evstafievich
Krylov Ivan Andreevich
Longepierre I.-B.
Ozerov Vladislav Alexandrovich
Plavilshchikov Peter Alexeevich
Pushkin Alexander Sergeevich
Racine Jean
Semenova Ekaterina Semenovna
Shakhovskoy Alexander Alexandrovich
Spiess H.-G.
Voltaire Francois Marie Arouet

Fontanka River Embankment/Saint Petersburg, city
Millionnaya St./Saint Petersburg, city

Беньяш Р. М. Катерина Семенова. Л., 1987

The subject Index
Theatre College
Hermitage Theatre
Winter Palace
Necropolis of Artists