rus / eng

Theater & Opera

Irra Petina – The Floperetta Queen
 
Irra Petina was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, to the rich and influential family of leutenant-general Stephen Petin, commander of Czar Nicholas II's personal escort (Konvoi). Even more, she was the goddaughter of the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna.
 
All this guaranteed that with the coming of the new, Bolshevik, regime, the family would have to choose: either flee the country or die. 
 
They chose the former, moving first to Kharbin, now China, and then immigrating to America, where the young and talented girl studied music and singing at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In the end of December 1933, she had her successful debut at the Metropolitain Opera, performing in Richard Wagner's Die Walküre.
 
Later, Petina would appear in at least 444 performances in Met, including as Maddalena in Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto, Marquise of Berkenfeld in Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment, Annina in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, and Carmen in Bizet's Carmen. 
 
Some of her performances became signature events at Met, for example as Marcellina in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro  (27 performances plus 4 radio broadcasts!), and won her rave reviews in the press and among the art critics of the day.
 
Interestingly, she was often called "floperetta queen", floperetta meaning a very old-fashioned style operetta that had been largely supplanted by more modern productions in the 1940s.
 
While primarily a theater stage singer, Irra never avoided other forms of the art of music, appearing on Broadway in Song of Norway (1947), Magdelena (1948), Hit the Trail (1954), and Leonard Bernstein's  musical Candide (1957), for which she received a Tony Award nomination. Even more, Petina appeared as herself in Andrew L. Stone's film There's Magic in Music (1941).
 
Irra Petina's long and successful path came to an end on January 19, 2000 - she died in Austin, Texas, aged 92.
 
Sources:
Howard Taubman “’Anya,’ a Sentimental Muscial” New York Times 30 Nov. 1965
"Extravagant Crowd", brbl-archive.library.yale.edu

 


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