The great Russian/Soviet tenor Sergei Lemeshev is well known in the West as "Lensky" from the main Soviet recording of Eugene Onegin (1955, with G. Vishnevskaya, E. Belov, conductor B. Khaikin). Meanwhile, for Russians, Lemeshev is much more than an operatic tenor; he is considered one of the greatest singers in Russian history, a truly national voice, like Feodor Chalyapin was for pre-revolutionary Russia.

Thirty years after Lemeshev’s death he is still loved and admired; his name gradually became a common symbol of vocal excellence—"to sing like Lemeshev" is what people say when they hear a beautiful, freely flowing voice.

On this site, a reader can (1) discover how Lemeshev, who was born to a very poor peasant family, made his impressive career at the Bolshoi, (2) learn what it was that made him the greatest star for millions of Soviet people, and (3) find out what it was like to be a famous tenor in the USSR. Also, one can read about his beliefs, his personal life and his huge army of fans.

The main part of the material comes from Lemeshev’s memoirs Put k iskusstvu (The Way to Art (1968), as well as from his articles. Initially, this site was to have been an attempt to translate several chapters from his book. However, I later chose to add many different facts and anecdotes, along with the personal reminiscences of many people who knew Lemeshev or worked with him: singers, conductors, and fans alike. I hope the result will be informative for everyone interested in the Soviet period of the Bolshoi theater.


I would like to thank Professor Edmund St. Austell, the author of the blog Great Opera Singers, for his invaluable help in translating Lemeshev’s biography to English. His profound knowledge of vocal technique and operatic styles was an inspiration to me .

I would also like to thank the many opera lovers whose interest in the history of the Bolshoi Theater encouraged me to work on this project.

Natalia Bukanova

среда, 11 апреля 2012 г.

4. At Stanislavsky’s  Opera Studio .




  As with everything Konstantin Stanislavsky did, his operatic experiment had a great influence on Russian theater. It was an attempt to revise operatic traditions, although this attempt was not the first. Already by the beginning of the 20th century a rift had begun to develop between the old operatic clichés still espoused by the Imperial Theatres and the Italian Companies, and the determined efforts of some artists to merge opera and dramatic theater in their performances. The most remarkable of these artists was Fyodor Chaliapin, who amazed audiences with  the most convincing performances, make-up and the most authentic costumes, all worthy of the greatest dramatic actors. 
Ivan Yershov created his own school of acting and was  called the “Chaliapin of tenors."

 Ivan Yershov as Grishka ("The Tale of Invisible City of Kitezh") and in Wagnerian roles. Painting by  A. Golovin.


 Leonid Sobinov changed the perception of the tenor roles in Eugene Onegin, La Traviata, Lohengrin, and Werther. His inspired and well thought out onstage behavior, along with his charm and striking handsomeness, had a huge emotional effect on the audience.
It would not be historically accurate to say that there were no good directors or opera  productions before Stanislavsky. Also, there were other singers who could act very well, but it was mainly Chaliapin, Yershov and Sobinov who had a systematic approach to their roles. They spent a lot of time in libraries, worked with costume designers and dreamed about creating an “ideal production,” every detail of which would have been on the same high level. Both Sobinov and Chaliapin discussed operatic problems with Stanislavsky. It is said that the idea of founding the Studio was born after a conversation with Sobinov. 

 Leonid Sobinov as Levko ("May Night"), Lensky and Lohengrin.

Stanislavsky himself was inspired very much by opera, particularly with Chaliapin’s talent. “The opera singer has to contend not with one, but with three arts at once," wrote Stanislavsky,  "vocal, musical and theatrical. In this reside both the difficulty and the advantage of his creative work. The problem lies in a varied process of mastering these three arts; although when this is done, the singer has a greater and more refined ability to effect the audience than we dramatic actors do. The singer must fuse these three arts into one, and direct them to a common purpose. To me, Chaliapin is an outstanding example of how these three forms of art can be fused. Synthesis has rarely been achieved by anyone in the art, particularly in the theater. Chaliapin is the only example I can think of. My system is taken straight from Chaliapin.” 

 Feodor Chaliapin  as Salieri, Boris Godunov and Don Basilio.

In 1918 Stanislavsky organized the Studio in the Bolshoi at the request of the theater’s Chief Manager Ye. K. Malinovskaya. His aim was to teach leading singers his system and to fight against operatic clichés . Among his students were such stars as Yelena Katulskaya, Sergei Migai, Valeria Barsova, and Yelena Stepanova. The Studio did not last long, however, because Stanislavsky’s methods were in contradiction with the Bolshoi’s  style and schedule. He realized the necessity of  founding his own company of young singers, conductors and assistant directors, who would adopt his system. So, the real birth of the Studio took place in 1922. Its first productions were Eugene Onegin, Boris Godunov, La Bohème and The Tsar’s Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov. Spared from clichés, they were fresh, wholesome and tremendously successful. Eugene Onegin received rave reviews from Chaliapin and Rachmaninov. All the productions were acclaimed as the beginning of the new era in operatic theater. 
The Studio’s stage was small. Actors were close to the audience, and this helped to create an atmosphere of  intimacy and truthfulness which excluded broad acting. As most of Stanislavsky’s  productions cannot be revived without him, one has to rely on the opinions of his contemporaries. Interesting evidence comes from three people: the ballet historian D. I. Leshkov, who saw Onegin and Tsar’s Bride in the 1920’s; Anatoly Orfenov – a prominent Soviet tenor; a star  of the Bolshoi, who worked in the Studio for 10 years, and Boris Khaikin – an outstanding conductor who also worked in the Studio from 1928 to 1934. 

Leshkov: “The only rest for the soul was Stanislavsky’s opera… I was astounded by the level of perspective painting: on the tiny stage of 45 square meters there was painted an entire Kremlin wall, with the Spasskaya tower, Bomely’s house and maid-servants’  house with a garden. Perhaps Stanislavsky could choose one young artist out of a thousand, because I had never seen such a cast in all my life. All the female singers were real beauties with wonderful, fresh and lush voices, while male singers all were future Chaliapins and Sobinovs… Also magnificent was the staging of Onegin. Both  Larin’s ball and the ball in St. Petersburg went beautifully on that small stage. Performances were precise and fine, both musically and vocally, and they would probably have delighted Tchaikovsky himself…” 

The production of "Eugene Onegin", the photo taken in 1926.


Orfenov: “In Boris Godunov, the introduction, the coronation, and the scene in Pimen’s cell went without dropping the curtain – a mere turn of a rotating stage instantly transported the audience from one place to another. As for the coronation scene, the set-designer S. I. Ivanov painted the interior of  the Moscow Assumption Cathedral, where all the Russian Tsars had been enthroned . People sang the Tsar's praises behind the scenes, and the crowd could be seen only through the cathedral doors…The director gave all his attention not to the decorative luxuriousness of the Tsar’s court, but to the inner psychological state of the characters, to mimics and to declamation of the text. The scene near the Intercession Cathedral didn’t end with the Simpleton’s crying. When the Simpleton accused Boris of murdering little Tsarevich Dimitry and sang, “I cannot pray for Tsar Herod – the Holy Virgin doesn’t permit” the lights slowly went down, on the fading note of a French horn.  The production was a tremendous success.” 

Boris Khaikin recalled the production of La Bohème: “An atmosphere of youthfulness reigned upon the stage… Very different, brightly portrayed characters, each in their own manner— Mimi, Rodolfo, Musetta, Schaunard, Colline, Benoît. How meticulously, how lovingly did Stanislavsky work  on each of these characters!  He strove to see that no word or sound was pronounced which was not in character, or which did not derive from the character's inner sense of self... Finally, Stanislavsky achieved striking contrasts between wild merriment—without which young people cannot live, despite all their hardships—and suddenly appearing tragic circumstances… Stanislavsky directed comical scenes to the limit. Real, sincere joy existed not only on the stage, but spread to the audience as well. When, after Musetta comes in, exclaiming  fearfully, “Here’s Mimi, here's Mimi!” – and  Mimi appears, short of breath and dying (Rodolfo carried her into the room), there is a contrast, an instantly frozen anxiety on everyone's face...a chill of death entering their little garret—all this made a stunning impression."

In 1924, when Lemeshev was hired, the Studio had already achieved classic status, and  the high level of its productions was not the only reason for it. Despite the Civil War, the number of companies and theatrical styles increased. It was a period of flowering of Russian theater. Some famous directors, especially Vsevolod Meyerhold, had gone so far with their experiments that Stanislavsky’s companies, which had been considered ‘experimental” several years prior, became nearly “conservative.” The studio’s methods of  creating productions, however, were considered original and innovative.  
First of all, the Studio's artists were Stanislavsky’s pupils, who had to  learn his “system” and carry out his directives. The Studio had neither chorus  nor dancers.  Every singer could perform a leading part one day, and sing in the chorus another. “Such a system was slightly imperfect, to judge from the quality of the sound. On the other hand, this method eliminated any disconnection from the show.” (B. Khaikin). 
Singers studied choreography, rhythmic, declamation, and sketch-acting three hours a day before rehearsals. With this training, they could perform any part and could also dance, when it was necessary. Stanislavsky demanded “natural movements,” dancing “like ordinary people do,” and he was satisfied with the level of their professionalism. 
He demanded from every singer that he or she learn every part  in the opera, with the aim of making artists understand the meaning of their role in the context of the whole production. This requirement could not be ignored because the Studio never had a prompter. Also, in order to create a natural appearance on stage, anything that might ruin the scenic impression was forbidden—such things as looking at the conductor or singing to the audience, not to mention encores. 
After each performance, Stanislavsky appointed a  rehearsal to refresh actors’ feelings.

The main specific of the Studio was Stanislavsky’s approach to music and directing. A great lover of Italian bel canto repertoire, he had  had a good singing voice (baritone) and  even wanted to launch a career as a professional singer before. His musical memory was excellent and served him very well in his 60’s. But his qualities and beliefs as a director  made him prefer those composers  who could create the most convincing characters and situations – Mussorgsky, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, or Rimsky-Korsakov. The most interesting comments on Stanislavsky’s approach to music were provided by Boris Khaikin: 
“ Stanislavsky would enthusiastically tell us about Italian opera, recall the names of its stars, remembering in the slightest detail their performances, and all the nuances and vocal methods typical of each of them… He quoted musical pieces (mostly operatic and vocal music) sang them and, what was especially precious, right then describe how he understood those musical images, and which of the composer’s ideas was especially valuable for him as a director. He knew and felt the psychology of musicians so well—all our weaknesses and penchants—that sometimes it was even a bit scary…

Stanislavsky  always tried to find out what the music meant. And sometimes it was very difficult to answer this seemingly simple question. In addition to the usual difficulty of precise definition of the musical idea,… not every objectively correct answer could satisfy Stanislavsky. It was necessary to guess the direction in which his imagination started  working… Worst of all, he reacted to the answers like this: “the musical idea expresses grief, sadness, joy, tragedy.” He would say, “What? Sadness, tragedy? No, that’s not for us, we can’t play that.” Which means that an artist shouldn’t play an emotional state— one of the main principles of his system. Stanislavsky often found such musical images as best gave the possibility for action. For example, it is impossible to forget the first measures of “The Golden Cockerel” (after the introduction), when Tsar Dodon's  motif appears in C Major.  And Stanislavsky would say, “Look how pompous he is! He just blew out his cheeks from pompousness!” Saying this, he sang the theme and gave it an intonation of absolute smugness. He repeated to the artist, who sang Tsar Dodon, “You’re not pompous enough! Follow the music!” –and it turned out wonderfully. How Stanislavsky was fascinated by the thunderstorms from Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Rigoletto! He would sing both scenes by heart and imagine the scenic realization of each musical line… He said that although a naturally occurring thunderstorm seems always the same, and works simply as a background  for the action in both operas, the colors used by the composers are very different. The thunderstorm in Il Barbiere occurs before the happy ending, while in Rigoletto it happens before the tragic ending. A real operatic composer must be a bit of a director. Stanislavsky considered Puccini the best “director” among composers, and forgave him a lot for that. Remembering the production of  La Bohéme  makes it clear what type of “direction’ in Puccini’s music Stanislavsky valued the most." 

All the processes in the Studio, from teaching to set design, were under Stanislavsky’s personal control. As he was not young, he needed assistance. His sister Zinaida Sokolova and his brother Vladimir Alexeyev had studied his “system” and became directors. Though they didn’t possess outstanding talents for directing, they were the most loyal and reliable people. This was very  important for Stanislavsky since he had a very complicated relationship with the co-founder of the Artistic theater, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Stanislavsky, who was always wary of intrigues and control infringement, was only comfortable with Sokolova and Alekseyev as assistants, knowing that they would carry out his directives and teaching methods precisely.During the first weeks in the Studio, Lemeshev worked under their guidance while Stanislavsky was touring the USA.

 Stanislavsky, Zinaida Sokolova and Vladimir Alekseyev.

As Anatoly Orfenov wrote, not without humor, “Zinaida Sergeyevna Sokolova earnestly, conscientiously and , I would say, reverently took all her brother’s instructions – up to asking us in “Onegin” to point exactly with the right index finger during the line, “You’re a treacherous seducer!” 
A former actress, Sokolova  lectured on the “system” and analyzed librettos with the students. In her notebook on the students’ attendance, she wrote a short remark on Sergei: “Lemeshev often skips lessons; he listens very attentively, but never asks about anything and doesn’t answer questions.”  To judge from his book and other people’s remembrances, when asked a serious question or when he was nervous, Lemeshev always tried to find the best  possible answer, and the person who had asked him sometimes got tired of waiting. His biographers explained the skipped lessons by pointing out the fact that  he was still a Red Army soldier during the time  when his Studio lessons began to require more and more of him. 
Upon returning from the USA, Stanislavsky wanted to hear the new singers, and Lemeshev recalled that auditioning was almost as unnerving as examinations in the Conservatory. He sang Werther’s romance. Sokolova and Alexeyev  told Stanislavsky of their concerns about Sergei’s height (172cm), but Stanislavsky pointed out Lemeshev’s  proportional build. The problem of height never came up again. Stanislavsky wrote down in his notebook, “Lemeshev – a Conservatory student, lean, pale and hungry.” 
Sergei’s account of the first meeting with Stanislavsky reflected the atmosphere of the Studio and the emotional effect of Stanislavsky’s  personality: “The first conversation with the beginners took place; all the studio was present. Stanislavsky talked a lot  about scenic art, including opera. He suggested to us that the actor’s task is a hard one, and requires total devotion  to the profession; that an actor never gets tired and must always be collected and ready to work:
"For those who admire themselves, who think about becoming an actor without effort, there is no place in the Studio," said Konstantin Sergeyevich; " I’ll start to teach you only when I’m sure about your devotion to the art.”
We were a bit scared. As I remember, I thought “What would happen if Stanislavsky is not impressed with me? What if he decides that I want to become an actor without effort?  That would be shameful !” We all cast our eyes down, perhaps to show Konstantin Sergeyevich that it had never occurred to anyone to admire themselves. But at the same time everyone was full of proud joy; to us and no one else had Stanislavsky spoken these words! The mansion in Leont’yevsky lane became for us something like a “temple of art,” and just crossing its threshold awakened within us an exalted,  solemn feeling." 

 A rehearsal in Opera Studio. Z. Sokolova sits next to Stanislavsky.

The rehearsal room in Stanislavsky's mansion, called "Onegin hall".

Several months later it became clear that serving in the army impeded Sergei’s work in the Studio. Stanislavsky wrote a letter to Lemeshev’s commanders: 

“To Comrade G.A. Goltz.
  Staff Commander
  Convoy Guard Forces, USSR
", The Management of the Opera Studio named in honour of People’s Artist of the Republic K.S. Stanislavsky , requests that you transfer Convoy Regiment soldier Comrade S.Ya. Lemeshev to the staff work of which you are in charge. This transfer will make it possible for comrade Lemeshev, who possesses a good voice, to combine his army service with his work at the Studio. He will be able to continue to develop his considerable artistic abilities. Comrade Lemeshev is a valuable and useful worker for the Studio. 
Chief Manager and People’s Artist of the Republic K.S. Stanislavsky.” 

As Sergei later confessed , the document was one of the most precious items of his personal archive. “Of course, the letter worked, but the most important thing for me in the document was that Stanislavsky himself admitted my artistic abilities.” 

“Our meetings with Stanislavsky became systematical, almost daily. Konstantin Sergeyevich aspired to direct our attention to the need to develop imagination, scenic expressiveness and a sense of artistic truth. He never got tired of repeating that all this can be achieved by hard work, but the talent we must bring ourselves. He loved to tell us about great singers, especially about Patti, Tamagno and Chaliapin. He emphasized Chaliapin’s powers of observation and his ability to find material for his characters no matter where he was or whoever he met. "You must be a bit of a "thief,” Stanislavsky said, watching everyone with his attentive, all-observing eyes, "you must remember all the impressions you have received, and all the characterizations you have made of your friends, acquaintances or even passersby; you must memorize them, so you can recall them from your memory archive when it becomes necessary for your work. ... Of course, I can’t make Chaliapins of you, but you may become relatives of his." 
Willing to broaden our horizons, Konstantin Sergeyevich invited talented actors of the Artistic theater to the Studio… Such encounters became engraved on our memory for ever and were very helpful. 
Sketch lessons were regular. Stanislavsky would choose two students and send them to work on a small stage between the columns. He asked them to improvise on a given subject… One day a sketch lesson didn’t go well for some reason, and Stanislavsky said:
I don’t dare to state that my system and exercises are the only correct ones. Perhaps tomorrow some talented young man will come and achieve much better results, not knowing anything about my method. But that doesn’t mean that today we mustn’t work as I ask you to. 
He never demanded real tears, sobs or naturalistic emotions . He always emphasized the meaning of  the actor’s technique. I remember Stanislavsky once telling us a story about the scenic practice of  the famous tragedian Tommaso Salvini. In one scene… Salvini, reflecting the heat of passion of his character, would take a run and throw himself on the banisters of a staircase. The banisters were firmly fastened , so that the artist wouldn’t fall. Once, when the show began, stagehands realized that they had forgotten to fasten the banisters… The fiercer Salvini became , the more terrified they got—what would happen next? But when the artist came down, as it seemed, with all his weight upon the wretched banisters , it didn’t even tremble. Salvini's movements and technique were that calculated, and Stanislavski admired it! 
However, he was indifferent to the problems of vocal technique. And that seems all the more strange, because Konstantin Sergeyevich himself sang, and had even wanted to become a professional singer and as we know, he was very responsive to fine singing, to the physical beauty of a well-trained voice. While working with us on music—most often songs , he always drew our attention to the fact that in a short piece 2-3 minutes long, one must paint a vivid picture of  a human soul’s life; one must transmit the mood, which the composer expressed in sound. He demanded clear understanding of what we sang  and to whom we sang, reminding us, by the way, that if  words are inaudible, all the work would come to nothing. 
Konstantin Sergeyevich worked with me on romances by Tchaikovsky and Cui.

Lemeshev sings Tchaikovsky's romance "Upon the yellow fields..." 1937. 

Our teacher  was especially critical  of tenors, stating that no matter which roles a tenor sings, they all seem like the same one. Because of that, he demanded the greatest possible diversity of intonations and ability to transmit the slightest nuances of the mood. Soon I started to work on Lensky. “Eugene Onegin” had already been performed with the piano… After Pechkovsky’s  departure  Sergei Smirnov sang Lensky; there wasn’t another performer for the part, so I was charged to work on it. I started reading Pushkin’s novel with Zinaida Sergeyevna Sokolova, though I had long ago learned by heart everything connected with Lensky. We worked without haste, supposing that I would be able to sing it on the stage no earlier than the following year. However, because of Smirnov’s illness, I had to take part in stage rehearsals after 5 or 6 lessons with the teacher.” 

Stanislavsky's mansion, where the Studio rehearsed . Leont'yevsky Lane, 6 in Moscow.

It must be said that the Studio was famous for holding the longest rehearsals. A young singer had to spend a year or two preparing the role accordingly to the “system.” The dramatic tenor Pechkovsky wrote in his memoirs that he had rehearsed “Werther” for two years. Every single scene or even a movement required hours or days of work. Finally, he began to wonder about the need to work for years on each part, and approached Stanislavsky with his doubts. He was told that the longest rehearsal period is necessary only for the first time, with an aim toward learning the “system." The next part would be much easier and quicker to prepare. “And so it was,” wrote Pechkovsky. Lemeshev’s work with Z. Sokolova was a part of the huge process of everyday preparation for stage rehearsals. 

“ It’s curious – as soon as I started to sing, my perception of the character abruptly changed. The music corrected me. In Pushkin’s novel the character is tinged with slight irony, as if the poet didn’t take Lensky absolutely seriously. Presumably, to some extent he parodied sentimental literature of the period. Tchaikovsky understood the character differently. With Lensky, as it was with Tatyana, he developed his own theme of devotion to overwhelming and tragic love. And yet I consider the work on Pushkin’s novel helpful, because I developed a better feeling for the words used in the music and my phrasing became more natural. Z.S. Sokolova worked with me on the technique of stage speech. At her lessons we learned to find the most important words and psychological accents.”
Stanislavsky worked on librettos too, and his method was quite original. As Boris Khaikin  recalled, “Instead of memorizing  the text, actors were asked to speak in their own words and in the first person about their aims and tasks; that is, “What  must you (the character) do in the scene? Why have you come on stage? What preceded your appearance; what will happen after your leave?” (All this was described in his theory). And after that, things began which were not described… Actors were asked to speak their text, as it had been learned  (still without singing), and to interact with each other, pronouncing the text. And then something terribly confusing   happened: they could neither declaim it expressively nor  read it by heart. It turned out that to remember the learned words it was necessary to sing the line and then to say them; to sing the next one and so on. The melody and the text were learned together and some subtle subconscious mechanisms refused to let them work separately. Stanislavsky sometimes made them play whole scenes without  music. … Only after that they began to sing. Moreover, when actors started singing, Stanislavsky told them to sit down and didn’t permit them either to move or to make gestures.” 

Lemeshev: “Stanislavsky became very inspired during rehearsals, when he tried to achieve definite action in every scene. He would insist and yell, but meeting us the next day, he sometimes said: "Everything is wrong, the scene won’t work like that, let’s do it in a different way."  He was never afraid to reject his own requirements, nor was he afraid to jeopardize his authority, unlike some other directors. The main thing for him always was  authenticity of  performer’s feelings. He always searched  for the stage presentation which would be the  most suitable for a certain artist, for their temperament and appearance. 
Konstantin Sergeyevich never offered  finished decisions, he didn’t insist on his mise-en-scènes. He searched for them by working together with the performers, involving them  deeply and imperceptibly in the creative process. I was so carried away by the work that the Conservatory almost drifted out of my mind. But sometime later I started  to notice, and finally became totally convinced, that I was again threatened by the break between artistic aspirations and vocal technique. I couldn’t express with my voice all the emotional richness and psychological subtlety of the character, which I felt and understood. Other performers were approximately in the same situation. We didn’t possess  the vocal skills necessary for the subtle and complex psychological nuances that Stanislavsky revealed for us in the music.   Konstantin Sergeyevich  worked hard  and at length on the expressiveness of some scene or even a single line, not noticing that we couldn’t carry out his requirements. We couldn’t combine our characters’ scenic emotions with the correct vocal production. We strained and forced the sound, and at the end of each rehearsal we faded out and went home with tired voices. 
It got even more difficult during performances , when nervousness made vocal problems worse. My rapid progression with Kardyan’s lessons, about which I had  already written, didn’t have any effect on my work at the Studio. I still got very tired in the duel scene, and my only thought was to hold on to the end of the aria. It didn’t  upset me, that I , Lensky, would be killed by Onegin. I only wanted that to happen as soon as possible.” 
In his "Biographical notes,” Lemeshev explained the vocal problems more straightforwardly. “We emphasized words very much; in some scenes we agitated ourselves, searching for inner feelings. Because of that we often had to sing with a forced sound; we got tired fast…we often simply started to wheeze, and vocally difficult pieces were already beyond our powers. Our supervisors didn’t take note of that though, and continued in the same manner. On the stage we performed very difficult tasks… But I think that by performing them, a young singer misses his chance to sing, for example,  Gryaznoy’s aria, which  is the most difficult technically. It contains a long cantilena that requires deep and even breath, and a correct arrangement of vocal powers. Otherwise the aria will not sound right. And, of course, it didn’t sound the way Rimsky-Korsakov probably wanted.” 
The tenor Anatoly Orfenov, who came to the studio three years later, in 1928, and worked there  until 1938, called those years the happiest period of his life. Besides, he happened upon a lucky year, when an idol of his—Leonid Sobinov— worked in the Studio as a consultant. In general, Orfenov disagreed with the opinion that the Studio had not permitted singers to develop their voices. Nevertheless, his personal experience sounds very much like Lemeshev’s:
“Inspired by the aim to act truthfully, I wanted to behave on the stage in such a way that people would believe me. I was in such stress, both internal and external, that the audience probably thought I was a good Lensky. However, in many places I just wheezed! In the first three performances I couldn’t sing the line “Zhelanny droog" at all…I couldn’t coordinate very abrupt movements of mine, always violating principals of breath. Finally, hoping to deal with my vocal troubles, in the third or fourth performance I decided not to act at all and to think only about expressive and correct singing of the part. The result was astonishing. After that I was awaiting “havoc” from the director, who was in charge of the performance. But she was delighted. How can it all be explained?  Only, I believe, by the fact that an artistic feeling was achieved during the year of rehearsals, so that without even thinking about the scenic tasks, I was in the character all the time.” 
Lemeshev came to a different conclusion, however, “It seems to me that the blame can be laid not only on our inexperience, but also on too much care about the expressiveness of words, which absorbed all the attention. It was forgotten that words would have seemed a hundred times more expressive if they were not independent from their incarnation in musical sound. Music became just a component of the action, but not its driving force. With that, the power  of singing itself, the beauty of sound and the human voice, (which contains the richest emotional expressiveness and the palette of colors that permits the transmission of feelings without using words); all that was ignored. 
 I remember Sergei Ivanovich Migai. He was one of the first of Stanislavsky’s pupils from the Bolshoi, but he came to the Studio when he was at the top of his vocal skills, when  his lyric baritone, of striking beauty, was in full bloom. I dare not judge how much more expressively he started to sing after Stanislavsky’s school – I hadn’t heard him before. But when I began to attend the Bolshoi in my Conservatory years, I was irresistibly impressed by his voice, just like everyone else in the audience. Migai enchanted everyone with the long, wave-like flow of his truly “velvety” voice. He could sing 10 or 12 measures on a single breath. Sometimes he made fermatas , which were inexcusable in terms of the dramatic logic of words and actions, such as this one in Gryaznoy’s final line: “Stradalitsa nevinnaya pro -------sti ( Innocent sufferer, fooooooooor--give me.” But many people were in tears, because the incomparable beauty of sound itself was impressive and took on special dramatic significance.
Sergei Migai as Boyar Gryaznoy and as Robert from Tchaikovsky's "Iolantha", recorded in the 1930's

 In Onegin’s line,”Ah, schast’ye bylo tak vozmozhno, tak blizko ("Ah, happiness was so possible, so close,”) where it is logical to emphasize the word “tak” ("so”) Migai often emphasized “schast’ye ( happiness”) and we were delighted by its beauty and at the same time imagined how great that happiness might have been! 
The final line of Onegin’s arioso, “…Mechtami, mechtami lyohkiye mechty” ( “… trade one passing dream for another”) Sergei Ivanovich sang on a single breath, spinning out the high F on a swelling crescendo, and after that, making the sound die away on the most tender pianissimo, enrapturing the audience. He could do everything he wanted with his voice, seemingly afloat in a broad, liquid plasticity of sound. Sometimes, the things he permitted himself to do were simply illiterate in dramatic sense, but not  many people noticed that… It’s interesting that logically, Segei Ivanovich analyzed the role absolutely correctly, but as soon as he went on stage , he fell under the influence of the music and the element of  vocal inspiration... While learning at the Studio to be attentive to the words and to the logic of the text, for which we sacrificed  expressiveness of sound, at the Bolshoi theater I nonetheless felt great excitement listening to its wonderful artists, who enchanted first of all by singing itself.
Much later I became totally convinced that images in opera are created by different factors than in dramatic theater; that correct psychological nuances and intonations had already been put into music. Singing must be musical; that is, it must follow the flow of the musical line and the laws of vocal expressiveness. These laws  sometimes seem to contradict logic (fermatas, portamentos, and swelling  crescendos, for example), but make their own specific forms of beauty… And so my days at the Studio progressed,  in doubts, hesitations (but also with enthusiasm) until an unpleasant incident occurred.
During one of the night rehearsals of the scene at Larin’s ball, Konstantin Sergeyevich persistently nagged  Pavel Mokeyev, our Onegin. We had been rehearsing the only quarrel scene in Onegin for three hours and couldn’t make any progress. Mokeyev burst into tears. While continuing to nag at him, Konstantin Sergeyevich looked at me all the time—such was his manner. That shattered my composure too. I felt that if I not leave at once, I would either weep too or flare up. With the words, “I can’t stand it any longer” I left. To leave Stanislavsky’s rehearsal purposely meant to leave for ever. I realized that when I rushed out onto the street, but my pride would not permit me to return. I sped home and looked automatically at the street clock, while I ran through the square near the Nikitskiye gates. The clock showed 2.30 am…
Less than two days elapsed before I bitterly regretted that I had not returned, and I grew depressed. Upon noticing my worries, Ivan Nikolayevich Sokolov, who worked at the Studio as a conductor, asked:  "What if I talk to Konstantin Sergeyevich and ask him to let you come and explain yourself?   I happily agreed and waited nervously, trying to guess what result Ivan Nikolayevich would come  from the Studio with. But it was two or three days before he managed to speak to Stanislavsky. Konstantin Sergeyevich  didn’t reply, as though he didn’t hear anything and it was two days later that he asked Sokolov:  "How is he there, still suffering?"
Ivan Nikolayevich was quick to confirm.
I was told to come to the Artistic theater at 9pm. The production “The Lower Depths” was on. Dead silence reigned backstage. [Note - Stanislavsky demanded that everyone maintain absolute silence backstage during performances, so as not to make even the sound of footsteps. This requirement was carried out especially meticulously when he himself performed.]  

 Stanislavsky's dressing room.

Stanislavsky as Satin. The 1910's.

Guiding me to Stanislavsky’s dressing room, his secretary started to tiptoe, as did I, and tiptoeing, we sneaked along the corridor. If I were not terrified, I would have laughed out loud. Imagining now what we must have looked like, I can say for sure that it reminded me very much of the “leopard crawl” on the drill field of Cavalry school. The atmosphere overwhelmed me completely. The secretary knocked at the door; I heard Stanislavsky’s voice, “Come in,” and felt my feet almost give way under me.  But I gathered up all my courage and walked in…Stanislavsky, who didn’t take part in the act that was on, wore Satin’s costume: a vest, a grey shirt, narrow, shabby trousers and a bow-tie. He was resting on the couch.  Lying down, Stanislavski seemed to me even taller than he was . He pointed at the chair, but I didn’t sit down. Knowing the irreconcilable nature of Konstantin Sergeyevich in everything concerning art, I was prepared to listen to the most biting reproach. However, that didn’t happen. 
He was silent for a long time. I was silent too, not knowing what to say in my defense. A lengthy and heavy pause hung. Finally, Konstantin Sergeyevich  asked me, stretching words and making big pauses: So, do you repent of your deed?"  "I do repent, I do regret very much and I suffer," I confessed sincerely. Then he asked, "Do you really want to work in the Studio?  "I do, very much." I couldn’t add anything more, trying hard not to burst into tears. Stanislavsky, apparently, understood my condition, and let me go. He told me not to permit myself to do such things any more, and to come the following day to rehearsal. So, I was forgiven!” 

People who worked in the Studio recalled that it was perhaps the only time that Stanislavsky forgave such a “crime.” He could be very attentive and kind to his pupils, but he considered the director’s power and control the most important thing. As he stated, it was necessary for the theater. The general attitude and ‘ideology” of the Studio are perfectly expressed in a short speech which he gave in 1926 when the Studio received a new and larger building:  “Get organized, achieve the strictest discipline, sacrifice everything you can, guided by the single slogan, ” this is necessary for the project, which we are creating for the sake of art—art which will warm and feed us throughout our lives!”
 Criticizing mischievous students, he usually accused them of lack of professionalism, “admiring themselves” or even “betraying the art,” which was unbearable for people to hear who were “brought up" under Stanislavsky’s ideology. Besides, being an outstanding actor himself, he used his skills to mesmerize “rebels.”  Anatoly Orfenov was one of the most devoted workers , and Stanislavsky praised him, yet even he faced the master’s rage in 1938. It was shortly before Stanislavsky’s death; the Studio’s future seemed vague. 

Orfenov received an invitation from the Kirov theater in Leningrad, which promised him a bigger salary, and being a family man, he decided to go there to audition. He was accepted by the Kirov theater, but the things that happened next ruined his plans and showed perfectly the hypnotic influence of Stanislavsky.
In Orfenov's words,“As soon as they learned about that in Stanislavsky’s theater, the director Arthur Grigor’yevich Orlov hastily got me into his car and drove to the sanatorium, where Konstantin Sergeyevich  took medical treatment and rested. And there I was , sitting before Stanislavsky, not knowing what to say, like a rabbit before a snake. Konstantin Sergeyevich was severe. He said, “Do you want to perish? To become an ordinary operatic singer? To perish, like Pechkovsky and Jadan, who left my theater, did. ?” I was so afraid I didn't know what to do. What was the Kirov, after all? Fear of Stanislavsky, trepidation during rehearsals – all that had such a depressing effect on us, that it seemed impossible to disobey or not to fulfill his wishes. I was sitting in the “prisoner's dock”, neither dead nor alive, and babbled something about a mistake of mine; that I hadn't even thought about leaving, that I only wanted to try myself, to audition for some other theater, and so on. Of course, I didn't leave, and perhaps it was for the best.”

After Orfenov’s words, it is especially interesting that the “quiet and bashful” Sergei managed to confront Stanislavsky twice. Another incident had taken place before the mentioned conflict, and ended up peacefully.  Actress Olga Sobolevskaya related, in March 1925, how Lemeshev had come to Stanislavsky’s rehearsal one and a half hours late. During that hour and a half the director and the group of students sat and waited for him. Someone tried to suggest to Stanislavsky that he begin the rehearsal without Sergei, but he was adamant. The situation was all the more strange because Lemeshev never came late to  rehearsals and he knew very well about the director’s irreconcilable attitude toward undisciplined students. It turned out that Lemeshev  was caught in a heavy rain on his way to the Studio and had to choose whether to stay at some shop until the rain stopped, or to run to the Studio. He chose the former. Stanislavsky, still angry, asked him, why he didn’t take a cab. Lemeshev replied, that he had no money for such luxury; his shoes were almost falling apart, and he didn’t want to catch a cold. Stanislavsky willingly forgave him and the rehearsal went well.

 The photo signed, "S. Ya. Lemeshev, the artist of Stanislavsky's State Studio "

Orfenov’s story also reveals one of the main problems of the Studio: other theaters often lured Stanislavsky’s pupils. It  was not a very difficult thing to do, because salaries in the Studio were smaller than in provincial theaters. As a true perfectionist, Stanislavsky hired the best conductors and most famous singers to tutor his pupils; every artist was paid during months and years of rehearsals, but in such a situation salaries couldn’t be high. Some singers also got tired of endless rehearsals and were very eager to work on stage.  As for Lemeshev, he made his debut  in “Eugene Onegin” two weeks after he had been taken back. In January of 1926 a courier brought him a note – Sergei had been asked to replace Sergei Smirnov, who was ill.
“I rushed to the Studio at once. The first person I met was  Z. S. Sokolova. Smiling somewhat ironically, she said, “There you are, your dream comes true earlier, than you thought. Let’s remember everything we did.” And we opened…Pushkin’s novel and started to read. Konstantin Sergeyevich came, asked me how I was. I hurried to reply, that I was fine. Stanislavsky stopped the reading and we  began to remember mise-en-scenes and to trace the development of the action. It was already 2pm…Konstantin  Srgeyevich asked me sympathetically, “Did you have a proper meal for lunch? Could you stay with us for lunch and after that to rest?” I was embarrassed and even perplexed. I thanked him and said, that I had everything… Then he let me go and told me to have a good rest and to come back early in the evening…I came to the Studio two hours before the performance. A make-up artist had been already waiting for me. He studied me for a long time, fitted the wig and studied again. Despite my almost full 23 years, I looked like a 19-year-old. He had just started to work on my face when Konstantin Sergeyevich came in, sat beside the mirror and said, “Don’t put too much make-up on. He’ll pass for Lensky even without any make-up at all.”…The small hall of the Studio kept an actor close to the audience— heavy make-up would have been gross. Then Konstantin Sergeyevich began to brief me– he talked about the friendship of Lensky and Onegin, about the Larin’s home, about their attitude towards Lensky, who was considered Olga’s groom, and so on. Approximately half an hour before the performance Konstantin Sergeyevich said, “You know, most likely you‘re already going to the Larins’ with Onegin. You are happy and proud and at the same time a bit scared, as usually happens, before some important event.”
I felt slightly awkward: it seemed to me that I was beginning to inhabit the character in a way that was somehow wrong. Because of that I couldn’t remember of take full advantage of that unique, minute-by-minute hour and a half which Konstantin Sergeyevich spent with me, helping me to be prepare for the first performance. And yet something happened to me during that hour- I came on the stage with Lensky’s excitement, with his trepidation and child-like solemnity. In a word, some store of the character’s feelings was within me. Stanislavsky gave me that.
The entrance itself was successful, but three steps before Larina I slipped and nearly fell over. But even that accident didn’t knock me out of the mood which I had brought with me onto the stage. Apparently, I was “charged up” well enough by the conversation with Konstantin Sergeyevich. During the first act and Larin’s ball everything was more or less all right. A little embarrassment occurred before the arioso “V vashem dome,” though. I got so much into the character , I was angry and I suffered; and then I made a very natural pause and proceeded to forget what key we were in! For some time I tried to find the D with which to begin the arioso. Finally a pianist played it for me, and I started to sing correctly, on pitch. I can say in my defense that later I became convinced that that moment was one of the most treacherous spots in my repertoire. It often happens  that a prompter has to give the note by a tuning-fork even to experienced singers.

Before each entrance Konstantin Sergeyevich came to my dressing room. I wasn’t ready enough, and he wanted to help me keep on the right path. Was it achieved? I don’t know, but I had success, and for some time was very glad, especially when I went on the stage to take bows. After the duel scene, agitated and at the same time confused with my own inexperience, I ran to my dressing room and stopped still, upon seeing Konstantin Sergeyevich. I was surprised when  he looked at me with a kind smile, congratulated me for my first success and added that if I worked a lot, in the future I would achieve something. That was typical of him. Of course, he wanted to cheer me up and to inspire me on to further work, but I came to the sad conclusion that I didn’t do well. And yet his words could not suppress my excitement  that night— I continued to live with the enthusiasm which I had experienced on stage. Konstantin Sergeyevich asked me another question: did my shoes fit? (Of course, he noticed that I had nearly fallen over). The shoes really were too big; it was uncomfortable to walk. Konstantin Sergeyevich immediately ordered a new costume and shoes especially for me, and  the next show I performed in my new outfit.
Meanwhile, the Studio’s life went its own way. A rehearsal was scheduled before each performance . We started to prepare “Tsar’s Bride.”  Konstantin Sergeyevich directed, Vyacheslav Ivanovich Sook conducted… [Note -  An outstanding  conductor and a friend of Stanislavsky’s, Sook, (1861—1933) was born in Kladno, now the Czech republic; he worked in Russia beginning in 1880; from 1906 on he was a principle conductor of the Bolshoi theater. ]

 Vyacheslav Sook

I met him while working on the role of Lykov. My first acquaintance with a great conductor increased my respect for this profession. Experienced singers always talked about conductors with awe; they said that a conductor was the main teacher and a tutor for singers; one who noticed all mistakes and imperfections and corrected them skillfully. Though in the future I often came across mere "wand-wavers," as bad conductors are deservedly called, I still think that I was lucky with musical supervisors, and I am very much obliged to them…
Sook was an awesome musician. But he was strict, and we were slightly afraid of him, especially because of the biting jokes in which he usually wrapped his critical remarks during rehearsals. He understood the vocal problems that I experienced, and constantly tried to draw my attention to smooth vocal production, working always toward a free-flowing and melodic line, and to developing a noble sound within the voice. But he made his remarks in such a way that  they would not be heard by Stanislavsky. Sometimes, walking by and meeting me in the corridor, Vyacheslav Ivanovich said,  “You phrase too much. Sing more, sing.” While putting on his coat in the cloakroom he often said to those who came to see him to the door… (he was Czech and spoke with an accent),” Of course, it’s good to hear expressive words, but in opera they must be sung...”  Meanwhile, Konstantin Sergeyevich, searching for the most important line, even changed the prescribed tempi. He always reminded us to “Give me words, don’t delay, sing faster, with more agitation,”  and that didn’t allow a performer to sing a scene with proper breath support … With his authority and assuredness, Stanislavsky was persuasive to such a degree that no one objected, not even Sook.  
During rehearsals, Stanislavsky many times appealed to conductors, asking them if his requirements contradicted or impeded the music. Carried away by his temperament, his aspiration to create life-like authenticity, and his ability to reveal the new psychological sides of the character, conductors almost always agreed with him. But in Stanislavsky’s absence they often changed their minds, saying “Let’s come closer to the composer...”  Since we couldn’t combine both Stanislavsky's and Sook’s  requirements in our performances we wandered back and forth between the two giants. The solution lay in merging the two sources—words and music—but this was a synthesis we had not yet been able to find.
Understanding the difference between their approaches, in my mind I drew ever closer to Sook. But during rehearsals I couldn’t help giving into the colossal creative energy  and enthusiasm of the great director.  Besides, if I declaimed interestingly, and controlled my diction, I knew that I would be praised by Stanislavsky himself (who among us would not have wanted that!) If I held a well-produced note a bit, or sang a line more melodically, I would hear an ironic "It's not your Bolshoi theater here!"

 Where was the truth? I can honestly say that we didn’t know at that time! And with the same frankness I confess that I could only formulate these thoughts much later, as a result of personal experience, observations and reflections.”

Stanislavsky’s relationship with the Bolshoi theater and its style was contradictory. He admired the greatest singers and musicians, yet at the same time he considered average operatic singing meaningless, just a display of vocal range and technical skills. As Boris Khaikin explained this paradox, “I don’t want to say that Stanislavsky didn’t like “music for music’s sake.” He simply stated that there was no place for it in musical theater…. A well-learned part, sung precisely, was absolutely not enough for him. It even upset him if he found out that singers had already learned everything, but without having bothered to find the correct emotional state.”  

During rehearsals Stanislavsky  directed all his energy against meaningless vocalization and clichés, and thought perhaps that singers would cope with their vocal problems on their own, or with the help of their vocal coach. The words "to sing the line” meant to sing for the beauty of the sound itself – the thing against which Stanislavsky  fought. His pupils sang, of course, and many of them had very good voices and were outstanding artists; audiences admitted that the musical  level of the productions was high. However, this was achieved in spite of the methods that were used during rehearsals. In general, many people, including Anatoly Orfenov, admitted that vocally the Studio couldn’t compete with the Bolshoi, which is where the best singers in the country, some of whom were good actors, were working. The more interesting thing is that Stanislavsky admitted the Bolshoi’s musical superiority too, and wrote in his notebook, “The greatest musical culture is there, in the Bolshoi.”

In “Biographical Notes, Sergei described the moment when he decided to leave the Studio:
“The next day there was  “Tsar’s Bride” at the Bolshoi also, and I went to hear it. Of course, I had heard this opera before, but I listened to it just like everyone else did. This time I felt that I could understand much more… It has to be said that the Bolshoi was not recognized in our Studio, though not openly, on the quiet …And so I found myself in the Bolshoi, comparing its production with ours, which was almost ready. I understood that dramatically we were more convincing. Our mise-en-scenes were well thought out, and developed in a more subtle way. They made a better impression by their logic and authenticity . Especially impressive were  our mass scenes. Chorus singers of the Studio were not just a crowd, but real people. Everyone had their task and a character, and acted accordingly. 

 But to return  to the Bolshoi’s performance:  Nikolai Semyonovich Golovanov, a magnificent master—deservedly considered the best interpreter of Russian classical music—conducted the wonderful overture. The curtain rose, and I saw the Boyar Gryaznoy – it was Leonid Filippovich Savransky. He sat exactly like they did in our production, gazing on one spot; his look and his figure expressed grief and a great inner strength. And when he sang the first line, “S uma ney’dyot krasavitsa,  I rad by zabyt eye’yo – zabyt-to sily net” ("I cannot get her beauty out of my mind! I would be glad to forget about her, but have no strength to do it!”) I thought, astounded, “How could he sing it so thrillingly, powerfully and convincingly, when he didn’t study in our Studio? And the sound of his singing! We didn’t even dream about something like this!"
Then Lyubasha , played by Nadezhda Andreyevna  Obukhova, came on stage. So awesome was her timbre, her phrasing, the meaning of her on-stage behavior, her expressiveness and the sincerity of her sufferings, that it not easy to describe… 

Nadezhda Obukhova as Polina in "The Queen of Spades", the 1930's

.Antonina Vasil’yevna Nezhdanova sang Marfa. Nezhdanova possessed a voice of stunning beauty; she had perfect technique and an extraordinarily cordial and warm sound… and I realized that in opera one must sing first of all.”

Antonina Nezhdanova sings Elsa's Song to the Breezes (Lohengrin), 1910.

“…More and more clearly I came to understand that only by practicing in larger, professional size halls could I bring my voice up to an appropriate level.”He continued in his memoirs, “I firmly decided  to leave the Studio and to try my luck at an audition for the Bolshoi theater. I sang Rodolfo’s aria. They said, “Thank you” and  asked me to come two or three days later to learn the results. But suddenly everything took a different turn. As soon as I came home, I was called by the well-known bass Vasily Nikitich Lubentsov, who told me that the Chief Manager of the Sverdlovsk Opera theater,  Boris Samoilovich Arkanov, had been at the Bolshoi audition and wanted to hear me once more. They came to my home, where I sang Gerald’s aria and Werther’s romance for them. Arkanov immediately offered me a  contract for one year at the Sverdlovsk, doing leading tenor parts for a salary of 200 rubles per month. He added, “You will probably be accepted by the Bolshoi, but I wouldn’t advise you to go there. At first they will keep you on small parts, while with us you’ll sing the repertoire of a leading tenor.” Arkanov must have had second sight. After signing the contract with him I didn’t even go to learn the results of the audition at the Bolshoi, but two days later they called me from the office and said that I had been accepted by the company. After my question, “in what parts?” there was a pause, and then a reply: "At first, in the small ones, of course: Gaston in “La Traviata”, Borsa in “Rigoletto.” Then I said, not without pride: ''I’m going to Sverdlovsk, and there in “Rigoletto”  I’ll sing the Duke instead of Borsa. I’ll be back to your theater five years later or so, when I gain some experience and repertoire.”
[To leap forward just a bit,  I must say that exactly five years later I entered the Bolshoi Theater, already with the repertoire of a leading tenor, heaving sung nearly 20 roles. Replying to them as I did, I relied not only on my luck; I set a goal and achieved it.]
Upon signing the Sverdlovsk contract, I started thinking about ways to leave the Studio without having a conversation with Stanislavsky.  I felt that I was right, although I couldn’t imagine how to explain all that to Konstantin Sergeyevich.  I was quite certain that this time he would not forgive another “betrayal” by me. I lost heart and limited myself to informing only the Studio’s manager F. D. Ostrogradsky about my leaving, and asked him pass it to Konstantin Sergeyevich.  Stanislavsky’s reply was: "Tell that brat never to show up in the Studio or even to walk on our sidewalk again.”
 And so, I was forever separated from any creative contact with the great master. Later, when I sang at the Bolshoi, there were many reasons to meet him. But I avoided those opportunities— I would never have been able to bring myself to tell him that I was happy with my life; my respect for Stanislavsky was too deep. But I didn’t want to lie either.
Now, looking back, I have no regrets about my decision. Quite to the contrary, I’m glad that my intuition lead me down the professional path.  And I was not, incidentally, the only one who did it. Some time earlier, the Studio had been abandoned by one of its brightest representatives— Nikolai Konstantinivich Pechkovsky, the possessor of an outstanding dramatic tenor voice and a huge fan of Stanislavsky’s… Upon entering the Kirov theater  (formerly the Mariinsky) he was given appropriate  repertoire and absolutely conquered the Leningrad audience from the first season. His Werther, Gherman, Lensky, José and later Otello made an indelible impression… The determination to  upgrade their vocal skills also lead to the Bolshoi some other singers:   A. Alekseyev, V. Prokoshev, and A. Orfenov.”

Stanislavsky’s faithful followers were proud of their ability to work not for money alone, and of course they would often say that the main reason people fled the Studio was financial. To a certain extent, that is true.  Stanislavsky did not permit people to combine work at the Studio with part time jobs in other theaters. Singers could earn additional money only during summer vacations, so Lemeshev demonstrated his determination to work “for art’s sake” and spent a year and a half at the Studio (from January 1925 to June 1926) , though he desperately needed money. During the last 6 months he had an opportunity to sing Lensky on stage nine or ten times; all the rest was rehearsals. Really active work started for him during the next season in Sverdlovsk.

 One of the main reasons for his leaving was in fact Stanislavsky’s overwhelming personality. Many years later, retelling the story of his début in “Eugen Onegin” to the director G. Ansimov, Lemeshev admitted that he had felt “small and pathetic" during that hour and a half he would spend with Stanlslavsky, even though the master was kind to him. However, Lemeshev soon disobeyed Stanislavsky’s order  to stay away from the Studio. Three years later, during the short break between engagements, Sergei  came to hear “ Tsar’s Bride,” and described it as “one of the best operatic performances staged by Stanislavsky." Rehearsals for the production of the “Tsar’s Bride” in which he had taken part before his leave were,  as he recalled, “of great interest”. Then he commented, "Here I may be accused of contradicting myself. But what can I do , when the contradiction  is rooted in life. And it was only natural that Stanislavsky, rightfully fighting against clichés, wanted to focus on the central theme and upon psychology, all implemented through the precision and logic of stage actions and images. I think, however, that his reform was not suited to beginners, who didn’t control their apparatus, but rather to real masters of vocal production. Returning to the past, it’s hard for me to imagine how my artistic destiny would have turned out if I had not meet Stanislavsky. In the Studio I learned what stage culture was, and what comprised an actor's professionalism. I learned to recognize the difference between stage routine and clichés, on  one hand, and truly creative work on the other; I developed a taste for words and proper declamation. Many things that  I had felt and sometimes comprehended intuitively—almost unconsciously—were revealed to me as laws of the realistic nature of the performer’s art…”
In the 1930’s, now a star of the Bolshoi, Lemeshev frequently attended Stanislavsky’s theater, and, as Anatoly Orfenov recalled, “…we were always nervous knowing that Lemeshev was in the audience.” Years later, in the 1960’s, Sergei even had to defend Stanislavsky’s system, which  in his opinion had been corrupted by modern directors.

S. Lemeshev “Put k iskusstvu” 1968

E. Grosheva “S. Ya . Lemeshev” 1987.

V. Vasil’yev. “S. Lemeshev. Vospominan’ya, fotografyi< dokumenty.” 1999.
B. Khaikin "Besedy o dirijerskom remesle" 1984
A. Orfenov "Zapisky russkogo tenora" 2004

Copyright © 2012 by Natalia A. Bukanova.  No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the author.

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