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The art of Zara Dolukhanova

Zara Dolukhanova, accompanied by Nina Svetlanova, sings a variety of songs from her wide repertoire.
Singer Zara Dolukhanova
Pianist Nina Svetlanova
Genre Recital

Zara Dolukhanova

The mezzo-soprano Zara Dolukhanova was born in Armenia in 1918 to musical parents.  After studying at the exclusive Gnessin Institute in Moscow, she returned to Armenia and joined the Yerevan Opera Theatre, making her debut in the role of Siebel in Faust in 1938.  After marrying the Armenian composer Alexander Dolukhanian she relocated to Moscow in 1944, working mainly with orchestras in the capital.

Her coloratura mezzo voice made her ideal for the operas of Rossini, in which she specialised, but she appeared relatively rarely on stage in opera.  She was very active as a recitalist and on the radio, which gave her great exposure and led to her being considered one of the most important singers of the Soviet era. In 1955 she gave the world première of Shostakovitch’s song-cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry.  She also gave the Russian premières of Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Strauss’s Four Last Songs after 1963, when she began to take on soprano roles, including Norma, Aida and Tosca.

She was among a handful of Soviet singers who also pursued an active concert and recital career outside of Russia.  She made her highly-acclaimed Carnegie Hall debut in 1959 and toured to the UK, Latin America, Japan and Scandinavia. She was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1966.

Dolukhanova retired from singing in 1970 and joined the vocal faculty at the Gnessin Institute, where her pupils included Olga Borodina.  She died in Moscow in 2007.

It is probably the rarity of her operatic appearances that has led her fame to be overshadowed by other Soviet singers, and she is less well-known to modern listeners than she deserves to be.  She did leave a fairly substantial recording legacy and this illustrates the remarkable range of her repertoire, which included works by Rossini, Verdi, Mozart, Handel as well as songs by the major Russian composers.

The recordings in Music Preserved’s collection illustrate this range nicely and demonstrate her attractive vocal qualities.  They include a set of familiar Schubert songs, admirably clear and beautifully musical, and a set of lyrical Armenian songs by her husband Dolukhanian and Romanos Melikyan.  A group of Prokofiev songs is followed by a version of Ravel’s Kaddish and ends with two of Richard Strauss’s best-known Lieder.  The Seven Popular Songs by de Falla demonstrate to the full the attractive warmth and expressive qualities of Dolukhanova’s singing.  Finally we reach home territory, with four songs by Tchaikovsky, characteristically full of passion and melancholy.

Nina Svetlanova

 Nina Svetlanova was born in Kiev in 1932.  After studying at the Gnessin Institute from the age of five, she graduated from the Moscow Conservatoire, where she was a pupil of the legendary Heinrich Neuhaus.  Her first husband was Evgeny Svetlanov, whom she met when he was a young and talented pianist.  After graduating from the conservatoire  she became opera coach at the Bolshoi Theatre, before joining the Moscow Philharmonic Concert Association, which allowed her to tour the world playing with instrumentalists and ensembles.

Her association with Zara Dolukhanova over fifteen years and in many parts of the world was one of the most important influences of her career, especially in her later role as a teacher.  She has written of her experience with Dolukhanova: “Sometimes it helps not to be involved with the texture or technical difficulties, but first gain a clear idea of the musical thought, which will be then expressed with fuller meaning. Usually, teachers and pianists do these steps at the same time (sound, technique, music). As a result of the many years of working with Zara Doloukhanova, and understanding her schooling, my method puts themes, phrasing, and interpretation in the first place, brings good results in our very technocratic times”.

In 1975 Nina Svetlanova moved to New York and she became a naturalised American citizen in 1983, being a professor of piano at the Manhattan School of Music and Mannes College of Music.

A true partnership

Hearing these live recordings of Zara Dolukhanova and Nina Svetlanova one has the sense of two special artists working with a shared undersanding of all the music they perform and penetrating its meaning with deep intelligence and musical sensitivity.


Richard Jarman

Track 1

Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)

  1. Wohin?
  2. Auf dem Wasser zu singen
  3. Sei mir gegrüßt
  4. Der Erlkönig

Track 2

Aleksandr Pavlovich Dolukhanian (1910 – 1968)

  1. The Crane
  2. Come to me

Romanos Hovakimi Melikyan (1883 – 1935)

The Rose

Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953)

  1. The Novice
  2. The Little Green Wood
  3. White Snow
  4. Dunyashka

Maurice Ravel (1875  1937)


Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)

  1. Traum durch die Dämmerung
  2. Ruhe, meine Seele

Track 3

Manuel de Falla (1876 – 1946)

Seven Popular Spanish Songs

  1. El paño moruno
  2. Seguidilla murciana
  3. Asturiana
  4. Jota
  5. Nana
  6. Canción
  7. Polo

Track 4:

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

  1. Night in July
  2. It was in early days of spring
  3. The sun has set
  4. Whether by day or by night


The recordings come from the collection of Patrick Saul in Music Preserved.

Dates and place of the recordings are unknown.


  • Zara Dolukhanova
  • Nina Svetlanova

Browse the collection

Music Preserved offers you the choice of listening to many of the rare, historically and artistically interesting recordings in its collection.