Figner, Medea, famous Italian-Russian mezzo-soprano, later soprano; b. Florence, April 3, 1858; d. Paris, July 8, 1952. She studied voice with Bianchi, Carozzi-Zucchi, and Panofka in Florence. She made her debut as Azucena in Sinalunga, near Florence, in 1875; then sang in the opera theaters of Florence. From 1877 to 1887 she toured in Italy, Spain, and South America; she met Nikolai (Nikolaievich) Figner during her travels, and followed him to Russia; after their marriage in 1889, she appeared under the name Medea Mei-Figner; they were divorced in 1903. She became extremely successful on the Russian operatic stage, and was a member of the Maryinsky Imperial Opera Theater in St. Petersburg from 1887 until 1912. She then devoted herself mainly to voice teaching. Her voice was described by critics as engagingly soft, rich, “velvety/7 and “succulent/7 She could sing soprano roles as impressively as those in the mezzo-soprano range. She was fortunate in having been coached by Tchaikovsky in the role of Liza in his opera The Queen of Spades, which she sang at its premiere in St. Petersburg (Dec. 19, 1890); her husband sang the role of her lover in the same opera. Her other successful roles were Tosca, Mimi, Donna Anna, Elsa, Briinnhilde, Marguerite, Desdemona, Aida, Amneris, and Carmen. She publ. a book of memoirs (St. Petersburg, 1912).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire