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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.”
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”.
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 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.
(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).
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.
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.
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.
Grave of Mikhail Vrubel and his wife and muse Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel