Semenova, Ekaterina (1786–1849)

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Semenova, Ekaterina (1786–1849)

Russian actress. Born in 1786; died in 1849; studied at St. Petersburg Theater School; married Prince Ivan Gagarin, in 1826.

Born in 1786, Ekaterina Semenova made her stage debut at age 17 after studying with the Russian actor Dmitrevsky at the St. Petersburg Theater School. In later life, she would be coached by the poet Gnedich and by playwright and theater director Prince Sharkovsky. An extremely beautiful woman, Semenova was known for her powerful voice and impassioned acting, particularly in classics by Shakespeare, Racine, Schiller, and Ozerov. In the early 1800s, when celebrated French actress Marguerite J. Georges (Mlle George) drew raves for her performances in Russia, Semenova became distraught from jealousy. Their rivalry became the source of much publicity, and in 1820, feeling she had been pushed from the pinnacle of success, Semenova briefly retired. Two years later, she returned to acting, and in 1823 was widely praised for her performance in Phèdre. She went into semi-retirement, confining herself to roles in private theaters in St. Petersburg and Moscow, after her marriage to Prince Ivan Gagarin in 1826. Semenova was lauded in several of Pushkin's poems.


Uglow, Jennifer S., comp. and ed. The International Dictionary of Women's Biography. NY: Continuum, 1982.

Gloria Cooksey , freelance writer, Sacramento, California

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