Semenova, Ekaterina Semenovna
Born Nov. 7 (18), 1786; died Mar. 1 (13), 1849, in St. Petersburg. Russian actress.
Semenova graduated from the St. Petersburg Theatrical School. She studied under I. A. Dmitrievskii and later under A. A. Shakhovskoi. She made her debut in the St. Petersburg imperial theater in 1803, becoming a member of the theater’s company in 1805.
The great emotional power and sincerity of Semenova’s acting were particularly impressive in V. A. Ozerov’s tragedies; her roles in these plays included Antigone in Oedipus in Athens, Moina in Fingal, Kseniia in Dimitrii Donskoi, and the title role in Polyxena. Semenova studied drama with the poet and man of letters N. I. Gnedich beginning in 1807. Gnedich introduced her to the aesthetic principles and viewpoints of Decembrist civic poetry, influenced her creative aspirations, and helped her become an outstanding Russian tragedienne.
Semenova acted roles of strong, passionate women whose tragedy lay in their uncompromising principles and unrealizable longing for freedom. An original artist, she was innovative in her portrayals of women. Her best roles in Racine’s tragedies were Hermione in Andromache, Clytemnestra in Iphigenia in
Aulis, and the title role in Phèdre. In Voltaire’s tragedies her best roles were Aménaïde in Tancrède and the title roles in Mérope and Zaïre. She was also outstanding in the title role of Longepierre’s tragedy Medea.
Semenova elevated many roles in romantic dramas and melodramas to the level of tragedy. The critics singled out as innovative her uninhibited expression of feeling, her nobility of spirit, and the clarity and inspiration of her portrayals.
From 1820 to 1822, Semenova did not act in the theater. In 1826 she married Prince I. A. Gagarin and left the stage. Her talent was praised by A. S. Pushkin.
REFERENCESPushkin, A. S. “Moi zamechaniia ob russkom teatre.” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 7. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Pletnev. “Dramaticheskoe iskusstvo g-zhi Semenovoi.” Trudy Vol’nogo obshchestva liubitelei rossiiskoi slovesnosti, 1822, part 18.
Rodina, T. Russkoe teatral’noe iskusstvo v nachale XIX veka. Moscow, 1961.
Danilov, S. S. Russkii dramaticheskii teatr XIX veka, vol. 1. Leningrad-Moscow, 1957.
T. M. RODINA