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Medea Mei-Figner (1858-1952), Italian soprano and mezzo-soprano
Private collection of T. Max Hochstetler
Medea Mei-Figner was born in Florence in 1858. She had voice training with Bianchi, Carozzi-Zucchi and Panofka and at the age of sixteen sang the mezzo part in Verdi's "Requiem." Soon afterward she made her stage debut as Azucena in "II Trovatore." From 1875 until 1883 she appeared at a number of Italian theatres, and visited Russia, South America, and London. Her repertory included roles as Amneris, Ulrica, Leonora in "Favorita," and "Carmen." She shifted into soprano roles singing Valentine in "Les Huguenots, Charlotte in "Werther," and Margherita in "Mefistofele."
While in Milan she met and later married, in 1889, the famous Russian tenor, Nicola Figner, a second marriage for her. With her husband she created leading roles in Tchaikovsky's operas, "Queen of Spades" and "Iolanthe" and in Napravnik's operas, "Dubrovsky" and "Francesca da Rimini." They both joined the Imperial Opera Company. Most of her career was spent in Russia where she was a favorite of the Tsar's family, appearing mostly at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. Her voice was described as "warm and attractive" and she possessed the range to interpret Lisa from Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades" to his liking. Tchaikovsky was close friend and often was house guest of the Figners.
Her husband left her in 1904, and she made a last tour of South America. She continued to appear at the Mariinsky Theatre making her farewell performance as Carmen in 1912. Medea left Russia in 1930 and settled in Paris and continued to live there until her death in 1952.
(Kindly contributed by T. Max Hochstetler, June 2007)