Alisa Koonen

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Koonen, Alisa Georgievna


Born Oct. 5 (17), 1889, in Moscow. Soviet Russian actress. People’s Artist of the RSFSR (1935). Wife of A. la. Tairov.

Koonen graduated from the school of the Moscow Art Theater (a pupil of K. S. Stanislavsky) and acted with its troupe between 1905 and 1913. Her principal roles included Mytyl in Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird, Masha in L. N. Tolstoy’s The Living Corpse, and Anitra in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. She then worked for a year in the Moscow Free Theater. Between 1914 and 1949, Koonen was the leading actress in the Kamernyi Theater. Her artistic collaboration with A. la. Tairov determined the theater’s ideological and artistic orientation.

The breadth of Koonen’s acting ranged from Racine’s Phedre to Lecocq’s operetta heroine Girofle-Girofla. But her fame rested on her roles as a tragedian. She endowed her heroines with moral strength, lofty spiritual aims, and idealistic aspirations. Her acting was characterized by intellectualization, subtle and melodic speech, a rare flowing expressiveness, and a mastery of stage movement.

Her most outstanding role was the Woman Commissar in Vishnevskii’s Optimistic Tragedy (1933). Koonen’s other great roles included the heroine of Scribe and Legouvé’s Adrienne Lecouvreur, Abbie and Ella in O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms and The Hairy Ape, Ellen in Machinal by Treadwell, Katerina in The Storm by Ostrovskii, Emma Bovary in the stage adaptation of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Kruchinina in Ostrovskii’s Guilty Without Guilt. Her concert repertoire included verses by A. A. Blok and I. S. Turgenev and selections from productions by the Kamernyi Theater. Koonen was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor and various medals.


“Stranitsy iz zhizni.” Teatr, 1965, nos. 11,12; 1966, nos. 2,4, 7, 11; 1967, nos. 1, 3, 6, 9; 1968, nos. 1, 3, 6, 9; and 1969, nos. 2, 6, 12.


Grossman, L. Alisa Koonen. Moscow-Leningrad, 1930.
Markov, P. “Alisa Koonen.” In the collection Teatral’nyeportrety. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
Derzhavin, K. Kniga o Kamernom teatre: 1914–1934. Leningrad, 1934.
Golovashenko, lu. Rezhisserskoe iskusstvo Tairova. Moscow, 1970. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Its leading lady, Tairov's wife Alisa Koonen (1889-1974), was a skilled tragedienne, at her best with Wilde's Salome (1917) and Racine's Phedre (1922).
In her memoirs, Alisa Koonen confessed to never liking the role of Saint Joan; she was a tragic actress, she explained, and Shaw's endless witticisms exhausted her.
"Alisa Koonen as Phaidra," 1925, by Sergei Sergeevich Ignatov and Georgii Avgustovich Stenberg at the Getty Museum.