Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel – muse of Mikhail Vrubel

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel – as the Swan Princess 1900

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel – as the Swan Princess 1900

Many paintings of the artist Mikhail Vrubel have the image of the same woman. This woman is the wife of the painter – a beautiful opera singer Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel. Nadezhda was born on March 20, 1868 in Kovno (now Kaunas) in an ancient noble family. Since childhood the girl differed with musicality and beautiful voice. Graduated from Kiev Institute for Noble Maidens, she rushed to St. Petersburg, dreaming of Metropolitan Conservatory. Nadezhda was in luck, fate gave her a nice vocal teacher Natalia Iretskaya, who saw in the girl undoubted opera talent. Already in the young age her first performance took place at the Conservatory. “Oprichnik” attracted the attention of the public, and the author of the opera – P.I. Tchaikovsky.

After the concert. Portrait of Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel, 1905

After the concert. Portrait of Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel, 1905

Nadezhda’s debut on stage of Panayev Theater on January 13, 1891, where she performed the role of Leonora in the opera “Fidelio” by Beethoven, did not go unnoticed. Her first performance received rave reviews in the press. The debut was more than successful. A new life filled with tours, enthusiastic fans and serious creative work began. With Anton Rubinstein, she goes to a tour to Germany, France, singing leading roles on the stages of Kiev, Tiflis, Yekaterinburg theaters.

Hansel and Gretel

MA Vrubel, Hansel and Gretel (T.S.Lyubatovich and N.I.Zabela. 1896

In 1895, Nadezhda entered the troupe of the Moscow Private Russian Opera going on tour to St. Petersburg. In the capital, on the stage of the Panayev theater in the fairy-tale opera “Hansel and Gretel” she sang the part of Greta. Her voice conquered the audience. Spoiled by excellent performers Petersburg public was delighted. Newspapers lavished compliments to the singer.

Self-Portrait. 1882 - Mikhail Vrubel

Self-Portrait. 1882 – Mikhail Vrubel

He met her at the theater, where being accomplished with the mystery of reincarnation, where the characters come to life, where the world is fantastic and changeable, where the reality was a fantasy, and fantasy was reality. He loved her immediately, admired her beauty, but others did not find her beautiful, believing that her facial features were not correct, but the artist saw pure beauty in her. When her magical voice sounded, her long, beautiful flexible arms, as if embracing the air, mingling with the sound, she embodied a living female song. “All the singers
sing like a bird, and Nadia – as a human!”

MA Vrubel, Hansel and Gretel (T.S.Lyubatovich and N.I.Zabela starring in opera Z.Gumperdink). 1896

MA Vrubel, Hansel and Gretel (T.S.Lyubatovich and N.I.Zabela). 1896

Vrubel made her an offer almost as soon as they met. “I’ll give you everything, all earthly things – Love me! ..” 28 July 1896 they were married in Geneva. The next day the young left for Lucerne, where he painted “The Flight of Faust and Mephistopheles.”

N.I.Zabela-Vrubel as Volkhova in the opera by Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Sadko'. 1898

N.I.Zabela-Vrubel as Volkhova in the opera by Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Sadko’. 1898

Friends noted that after marriage Nadezhda became the happiest woman in the world, and in her voice shone with new colors, making it even lyrical and cordial. Since 1897 Nadezhda sang in the Private Russian Opera of Mamontov for 8 years. At that time, she performed a large number of operatic roles, for a genuine delight of listeners: Swan Princess in “The Tale of Tsar Saltan”, Serena in the “Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh”, Martha in “The Tsar
bride”, Volkhova in “Sadko”, Tamara in “Demon”, Lyudmila in “Ruslan and Lyudmila”.

N.I.Zabela-Vrubel on the background of birch trees. 1904

N.I.Zabela-Vrubel on the background of birch trees. 1904

As an opera singer Nadezhda Zabela became a muse for Vrubel. He is not just adored his wife, he lived for her. He attended all of her rehearsals and performances, invented for her costumes and painted scenery for plays, in which she sang. During these years the artist was at the pinnacle of success, he worked hard and successfully, exhibiting his paintings.

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel – Artist's wife in a stage dress 1898

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel – Artist’s wife in a stage dress 1898

Nadezhda literally bathed in the glow of love and success. Composers began to write for her opera roles and romances.
The audience loved her and happily went to the plays in which she sang.

portrait of son, 1902

portrait of son, 1902

(Vrubel painted the portrait of his young son, who was born with a cleft lip, the painter depicted his offspring, even
not trying to hide the congenital malformation. After the completion of the portrait the boy died).

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel and Mikhail Vrubel

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel and Mikhail Vrubel

September 4, 1901 the young couple had a son Sawa. It seemed that they could be only envied – they are happy, talented, successful. But life, unfortunately, is rarely straightforward. In early 1902, Vrubel was diagnosed with incurable nerve disease that was rapidly progressing. Required treatment in psychiatric hospitals. In 1903, the
family grasped a heavy blow – their son died. This irreparable loss had affected the work of Nadezhda, and especially the work of Mikhail Vrubel.

Portrait of Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel, 1904

Portrait of Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel, 1904

He tries to resist the disease, and when it lessened, he worked much. In 1905, Vrubel becomes the academician of painting. But this year was the last in his creative life. The following year, he became blind. Four years in the dark. Just care of his wife keeps him alive, but on April 1, 1910 Mikhail Vrubel died.

Self-Portrait. 1904-1905 - Mikhail Vrubel

Self-Portrait. 1904-1905 – Mikhail Vrubel

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel in opera 'Sadko'

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel in opera ‘Sadko’

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel

These years demanded from Nadezhda a huge courage. Mamontov Private Opera closed due to bankruptcy. To Grand Theater Nadezhda was not accepted, probably because of fear of competition. Thanks to the intercession of Natalia Iretskaya she was taken to the Mariinsky Theater. But in the theater there were a lot of excellent performers, and the relationship in the company were complicated. She got less offers. She earned for life working as a vocal teacher. Nadezhda slightly outlived her husband. June 20, 1913 in St. Petersburg, she made her last concert. At night she died. She was only 45 years old.

Night in Italy, 1891

Night in Italy, 1891

'Oriental dance', 1887

‘Oriental dance’, 1887

'Oriental Tale', 1886

‘Oriental Tale’, 1886

Resurrection triptych 1887

Resurrection triptych 1887

Six-Winged Seraphim, 1905

Six-Winged Seraphim, 1905

Tamara and Demon

Tamara and Demon

'The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles', 1885

‘The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles’, 1885

The Virgin and Child 1884 1885

The Virgin and Child 1884 1885

Duel

Duel

'Hamlet and Ophelia', 1884

‘Hamlet and Ophelia’, 1884

Hercules, 1898

Hercules, 1898

'Knight', 1896

‘Knight’, 1896

Lamentation triptych 1887

Lamentation triptych 1887

Lamentation, 1887

Lamentation, 1887

Grave of Mikhail Vrubel and his wife and muse Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel

Grave of Mikhail Vrubel and his wife and muse Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel

Grave of Mikhail Vrubel and his wife and muse Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel