Lyudmila Maksakova - Biography


Lyudmila Maksakova was born in Moscow, on September 26, 1940, to Soviet opera diva Maria Maksakova and theater entrepreneur Aleksander Volkov, whom her mother never married and who in 1942 deflected to the West, later to re-surface in the USA as a drama school founder. That incidence was the reason why for many years Lyudmila was unaware of her father's identity. By keeping it secret, Maria Maksakova was protecting her daughter from serious trouble at the time when any link to 'a traitor' could be regarded crime against the state; according to the family legend, her father might have been NKVD general Vasily Novikov (hence the middle name, Vasilienva). This controversy was also the reason for the atmosphere of secrecy that the girl has been grown in. With rumours spreading around concerning her origins (one had it that she'd been the daughter of none other than Stalin, who'd treated the famous Bolshoi singer as a favourite), Lyudmila was being kept mostly at home, so as "not to get too much unwanted impressions", as her mother put it. It was only in the Moscow Central music school where she studied cello that the girl would be able to socialize with peers.

After the graduation from both schools (the secondary and the musical) simultaneously, Lyudmila has opted against pursuing musical career and enrolled at the prestigious Schukin theater college, to study in the actor Vladimir Etush class. In 1961 she graduated from the College and joined the Vakhtangov Theater, the troupe she knew well, since she'd been performing with it already, while a student. The first two parts Lyudmila Maksakova has been given there were those of Masha Tchubukova in Kookie in Marriage (by Anatoly Sofronov) and Masha in The Living Corpse after Leo Tolstoy. Her breakthrough came two years later when she took upon herself the part of the Tatar princess Adelma in the famous Vakhtangov production of Princess Turandot, revived by director Ruben Simonov. This performance, full of swagger and charm, highlighted the young actress' best qualities and made her an overnight sensation in the Moscow theater circles. In the years to come she was lauded by theater critics in heroic parts (Lolya, Dion; Knipper-Chekhova, My Whimsical Happines), as well as comic (Nicol, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme), lyrical (Maria, The Cavalry Army after Babel) and dramatic (Mamayeva, Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man) ones.

In 1964 Maksakova debuted on screen as Nina in Grigory Chukhray's There Was an Old Couple. Over the next ten years she had leading parts in revolutionary history drama Tatiana's Day (as Tatiana Ogneva, the young workers' leader), psychological melodrama Not Guilty (Natasha) and tragic melodrama The Bad Good Man (Nadezhda). The 1977 marriage to a German citizen Peter Igenbergs all but finished Maksakova's career: her photos have been removed from the press and life in theater became difficult, then collaborations with guesting theater directors from abroad (Miroslav Belovich, A. Kovalchik) saw its successful re-launch.

Praised were her leading parts in Roman Viktyuk's Anna Karenina 1983 production (based on Mikhail Roshchin's remake of Leo Tolstoy's classic) which was followed by The Lady Without Camellias (after Terence Rattigan's play, Paola), Soboryane (based on Leskov's novel, Bizyukina) and I Don't Know You From Now On, Dear (after Aldo De Benedetti's play, Louise). In 1990 Maksakova debuted as a co-director in Viktyuk's take on David Pawnell's The Master's Lessons staged at Vakhtangov's. Maksakova's notable film works of the were The Old Russian Vaudevilles' Evening (1979) where she played five women, Igor Talankin's drama Father Sergius (after Leo Tolstoy's short story, Makovkina) and Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, the Ian Frid's musical film after Johann Strauss Strauss' classic where she starred opposite brothers Yuri and Vitaly Solomin.

Critics lauded her works in Stanislav Govorukhin's Ten Little Negroes (1987, as Miss Brent), Pyotr Todorovsky's By the Main Street with an Orchestra (1986, as Alla Maksimovna) and Pyotr Fomenko's melodrama Old Car Ridings (Zoya Pavlovna). The latter marked the beginning of successful collaboration the climax of which was the Alexander Ostrovsky's Guilty Without Fault production that has earned Maksakova The USSR State Prize (1995) and the Stanislavsky Prize (1996). Two more renown Fomenko productions, Queen of Spades (1998) and The Resurrection (1999, after Maurice Maeterlinck's Le Miracle de saint Antoine) were starring Maksakova. In 2000s she started to teach at the Schukin's Theater College and her appearances on stage and on screen became rarer.

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