Yuliya Abaza

Tchaikovsky Research
Yuliya Abaza (1830–1915)

Russian singer (mezzo-soprano), musician, writer, and socialite (b. 1830 in Germany [1]; d. 6/19 January 1915 in Petrograd), born Julie Stubbe; known after her marriage as Yuliya Fyodorovna Abaza (Юлия Фёдоровна Абаза).

Her exceptional vocal abilities were recognised at an early age, and during the 1850s she performed in France, Germany and Russia. In Saint Petersburg she met and married the civil servant Aleksandr Ageyevich Abaza (1821–1895), who rose to the rank of State Comptroller (1871-74) and Russian Minister of Finance (1880-81).

Tchaikovsky and Abaza

As well as giving public recitals, Abaza also performed privately for the Grand Duchess Yelena Pavlovna, who in the 1860s together with Anton Rubinstein helped to found the Russian Musical Society, as well as the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, to which Abaza was elected an honorary member. Her reputation continued to grow, counting among her admirers Fyodor Tyutchev and Charles Gounod, both of whom dedicated pieces to her.

During the early 1860s Tchaikovsky, seeking to earn money to support his studies at the conservatory, offered his services to her as an accompanist on the piano. After hearing him play she is said to have declared: "Young man, your knowledge of music is bad. Come twice a week, I will give you lessons" [2].

During the 1870s and 1880s the Abazas' mansion on the embankment of the Fontanka River in Saint Petersburg became something of a cultural centre in society circles, and Yuliya's soirées were frequented by such luminaries as Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Ivan Turgenev. It was on one such evening in February or March 1879 [3] that scenes from Tchaikovsky's opera Yevgeny Onegin received their first performance, with Abaza herself taking the role of the nurse, Filippyevna, Aleksandra Panayeva-Kartsova as Tatyana, Ippolit Pryanishnikov as Onegin, Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya as Olga, and Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich providing accompaniment at the piano.

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

No letters from Tchaikovsky to Yuliya Abaza are known, but 2 letters from Abaza to Tchaikovsky, both dating from 1892, and are preserved in the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin (a4, Nos. 1–2).

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Notes and References

  1. Possibly baptised on 13 April 1830 [N.S.] at the Church of St. Peter in Berlin to Heinrich Friedrich Stubbe and his wife Marie.
  2. See Aleksandra Panayeva-Kartsova's recollections in Воспоминания о П. И. Чайковском (1980), p. 129.
  3. Some sources give the date of this occasion as as 6/18 March 1879.