Zhemchugova, Praskov’ia Ivanovna
(stage name of P. I. Kovaleva). Born July 20 (31), 1768, in the village of Berezino, Yaroslavl Province; died Feb. 23 (Mar. 7), 1803, in St. Petersburg. Russian actress and singer (soprano).
Zhemchugova was a serf of Count N. P. Sheremetev and was taken into the manor house at age seven and trained for the theater. In 1779 she first acted in a minor role at the Sheremetev Kuskovo Theater near Moscow. She sang approximately 50 operatic roles. Her emotional, nationally rooted art was imbued with protest against oppression. Her portrayals of ordinary peasant girls who suffer from social inequality and of heroic, spiritually strong women were particularly successful. Her roles included Louisa in The Deserter by Monsigny, the page and the Infanta in The Infanta of Zamora by Paisiello, the shepherdess Aniuta in Vain Jealousy by Pugnani, and the title role in Gretry’s Lucile. Zhemchugova’s best role was that of Eliana in the Samnite Marriages by Gretry. Her stage career lasted until 1797. Zhemchugova’s personal tragedy, which led to her death from consumption, was reflected in her stage roles; she was granted freedom only in 1798 and only in 1801 was her marriage to N. P. Sheremetev legalized. Her enchanting image is memorably described in the folk song “Coming From a Grove Past Eventide” and in the portraits painted by the serf artist N. I. Argunov.
REFERENCESElizarova, N. A. Krepostnaia aktrisa P. L Kovaleva-Zhemchugova. Moscow, 1952.
Marinchik, P. F. Nedopetaia pesnia. Leningrad-Moscow, 1965.