Lydia Lipkowska

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Lydia Lipkowska
Born(1882-05-10)10 May 1882
Died22 March 1958(1958-03-22) (aged 75)
Beirut, Lebanon
EducationSaint Petersburg Conservatory
OccupationOpera lyric coloratura soprano

Lydia Yakolevna Lipkowska (Russian: Лидия Яковлевна Липковская. Ukrainian: Лідія Яківна Липковська; 10 May 1882 – 22 March 1958)[1] was a Russian operatic soprano of Ukrainian origin who had an active international career during the first half of the 20th century. A gifted lyric coloratura soprano, she performed leading roles at the Mariinsky Theatre, the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, La Scala, and the Opéra-Comique among other theaters.


Lydia Lipkowska, from Music News, 1921
Lipkowska in drawings by Marguerite Martyn, with a photo, 1910

Lydia Lipkowska was born to the family of a rural teacher, in Babyn,[1] Khotinsky Uyezd of the Bessarabia Governorate, Russian Empire (now in the Dnistrovskyi Raion of the Chernivtsi Oblast, Ukraine). There is a village museum dedicated to her, in the family of a rural teacher.[citation needed] Her birth name was Lydia Marschner.[2]

Lydia had three sisters and four brothers. Her aunt was Maria Zankovetska, a famous Ukrainian actress. She received education in the Mariinsky Women's Gymnasium in Kamianets-Podilskyi. Together with other students, she sang in the church choir, she had her own solo parties, drawing attention with a magic voice that ran under the dome of the cathedral. Residents of Kamianets called the girl "Singing Bird".[citation needed]

After Kamianets-Podiskyi, Lipkowska was trained at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.[1] She studied with Natalia Iretskaya, a pupil of celebrated voice teacher Pauline Viardot.[3] She was committed to the Mariinsky Theatre from 1906 to 1908 and again from 1911 to 1913.[1] Her repertoire at that opera house included Gilda in Rigoletto, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Marfa in The Tsar's Bride, Micaëla in Carmen, Olga in Ivan IV, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, and the title roles in Iolanta, Lakmé, Lucia di Lammermoor, and The Snow Maiden.[4][1] In 1909, she performed in operas in Paris prior to traveling to the United States later that year.[1] She made her Paris debut at Théâtre du Châtelet, which was followed by engagement at the Opéra-Comique as Lakmé and the Paris Opera as Gounod's Juliette.[5]

Lipkowska was a member of the Metropolitan Opera (the "Met") in New York City from 1909 until 1911.[1][6] She made her debut at the Met as Violetta in La Traviata on November 18, 1909, with Caruso as Alfredo.[7] She concurrently was a member of the Boston Opera Company for the 1909/1910 and 1910/1911 seasons; making her debut in Boston in November 1909. Her Boston roles included Gilda, Lakmé, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Violetta, and the title roles in Manon and Lucia di Lammermoor.[3][2] She also performed with the Chicago Grand Opera Company in 1910.[1] While in Boston, Lipkowska was honored by The Lenox Hotel, which put on its menu the "cup Lydia" and the "Soufflé à la Lipkowska". She petitioned a judge for an injunction against the hotel, claiming that the menu items were "injuring her reputation and holding her up to ridicule".[8]

In 1910, Lipkowska returned to the Opéra-Comique as Verdi's Violetta.[2] In 1911, she made her debut at the Royal Opera House in London as Mimì in Giacomo Puccini's La bohème,[1] and her debut at the Vienna Volksoper in the title role of Bizet's Carmen.[2] She later returned to the Royal Opera House as Violetta, Gilda, and in the title role of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's Il segreto di Susanna for the United Kingdom premiere of that work in July 1911.[1][2]

In 1912, Lipkowska charged New York gangster Sam Schepps with usury over his refusal to return two diamonds worth $80,000 that she had pawned to him. Lipkowska said that she had borrowed $12,000 from Schepps, had left the diamonds with him as security, and that he sought $5000 in interest before he would return the jewels.[9] That same year she returned to Henry Russell's Boston Opera Company for the 1912/1913 season.[10]

Lipowska married Russian baritone Georges Baklanoff a few years prior to the outbreak of World War I; but the marriage ended in divorce.[2] The couple appeared in numerous operas together in the years leading up to that war at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo; also collaborating frequently with tenor Giovanni Martinelli.[2] In 1914, she sang in the world premiere of Amilcare Ponchielli's I Mori di Valenza at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo.[1] In 1914/1915, Lipkowska was a resident artist at La Scala in Milan.[11] In that city, she continued her vocal training with Vittorio Vanza.[2]

Lipkowska was once again committed to the Mariinsky Theatre when the Russian Revolution began in 1917.[12] Lipkowska fled the capital with her daughter, Aidenna, when the Bolsheviks seized power during the October Revolution of that year.[12] The family lived in a remote area of the Caucasus region of Southern Russia, until once again fleeing the Bolshevik armies for the city of Odesa.[12] There she befriended a French military officer, Pierre Bodin, who helped Lipkowska and her daughter to once again escape the invading Bolshevik armies in April 1919, by securing the family passage on a ship to Constantinople.[12] Lipkowska married Pierre Bodin,[12] and upon her marriage she emigrated to France in 1919.[1]

In 1920, Lipkowska traveled to New York on the RMS Adriatic of the White Star Line on February 8.[12] In September 1920, she sang Gilda in Rigoletto with the San Carlo Opera Company in Manhattan.[13] She spent the 1920s performing at a variety of theatres in the United States and Europe, and ended her performance career touring the Soviet Union in 1928–1929.[1] In 1921, she appeared on Broadway at the Knickerbocker Theatre in the title role of Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow.[14] That same year she performed a concert of Russian and French opera arias at Carnegie Hall.[15]

After retiring from the stage, Lipkowska lived in Romania where she was active as a voice teacher. One of her students was the soprano Virginia Zeani.[1] She came out of retirement for one last performance at the Odessa Opera in 1941, to perform the role of Violetta one last time.[2] In 1945 she relocated to Paris, and later moved to Milan before finally settling in Lebanon where she lived her final years.[1][2] She died in Beirut at the age of 75.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Harold Barnes; Alan Blyth (2001). "Lipkowska [née Marschner], Lydia (Yakovlevna) [Lipkovskaya, Lidiya]". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.16728.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kutsch, K.-J.; Riemens, Leo (2012). "Lipkowska, Lydia". Großes Sängerlexikon (in German) (4th ed.). De Gruyter. p. 2743. ISBN 978-3-59-844088-5.
  3. ^ a b Henry Charles Lahee (1912). The Grand Opera Singers of To-day: An Account of the Leading Operatic Stars who Have Sung During Recent Years, Together with a Sketch of the Chief Operatic Enterprises. L.C. Page. pp. 362–364.
  4. ^ Louis Schneider (1 February 1909). "Madame Lydia Lipkowska de 'l'Opera Imperial Marie de Saint Petersburg". Le Théâtre (243): 19.
  5. ^ "Russian Singers for Boston; Lydia Lipkowski Among Those Engaged for New Opera House". The New York Times. 19 July 1909. p. 7.
  6. ^ "Metropolitan Plans Great Opera Season". The New York Times. 13 September 1909. p. 9.
  7. ^ "Traviata at Metropolitan: Mme. Lipkowska Makes Debut as Violetta – Caruso as Alfredo". The New York Times. 19 November 1909. p. 11.
  8. ^ "Declines a Hotel's Homage". The New York Times. 16 February 1910. p. 3.
  9. ^ "Lipkowska Accuses Broker of Usury". The New York Times. 23 October 1921. p. 18.
  10. ^ "Lydia Lipkowska: Famous Russian Prima Donna Soprano of Opera and Concert". Musical Courier: 13. 23 September 1920.
  11. ^ "Il cartellone della futura stagione alla Scala". Il Teatro Illustrato. National Central Library of Rome. 1914.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Saved From 'Reds', Singer Here a Bride". The New York Times. 9 February 1920. p. 3. Retrieved 7 January 2024.
  13. ^ "Rigoletto at Manhattan". The New York Times. 22 September 1920. p. 24.
  14. ^ "Lydia Lipkowska, Merry Widow". The New York Times. 2 August 1921. p. A20.
  15. ^ Grena Bennett (23 April 1921). "Lipkowska's Gowns Vie With Her Voice". Musical America. p. 14.

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