Levi, Natalia (1901–1972)

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Levi, Natalia (1901–1972)

Soviet composer and actress whose best-known compositions were written during and about the Siege of Leningrad. Born Natalia Nikolayevna Smyslova in St. Petersburg, Russia, on September 10, 1901; died in Leningrad (present-day St. Petersburg) on January 3, 1972.

Natalia Levi was born in 1901 in St. Petersburg, grew up in Petrograd, and died in 1972 in Leningrad, all the same city. In 1991, her works were once again performed in St. Petersburg. The changing name of her birthplace indicates the tumultuous period Russians like Levi lived through in the 20th century. Long a cultural mecca, St. Petersburg produced many talented artists like Levi. She graduated from the Russian Drama School and then from the Leningrad Conservatory where she studied composition under P. Pyazanov. From 1924 to 1934, Levi was an actress who also headed the Mobile Theater. In 1936, she moved to Petrozavodsk and became involved in a project collecting the folk songs of the northern people in the Soviet Union. She returned to Leningrad during World War II, where she served as a translator. She survived the Siege of Leningrad, a period when many citizens of that city starved to death rather than surrender to the Nazis. During this time, Levi composed war songs and later was awarded two medals for works hailing the defense of Leningrad.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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