Vayne, Kyra

Russian soprano, 1916 - 2001

Biographical notes:

She was born Kyra Knopmuss in Petrograd into a once aristocratic familiy that had hailed originally from Danzig. Thanks to the revolution, she and her family moved to London in 1924. Her voice was noticed while singing in a Russian choir and she began to train her voice. Her teachers were Manlio Di Veroli and Mignon Nevada (daughter of Emma Nevada, a Marchesi pupil). During the 30s, she was involved with all types of musical shows from Russian music revue and musical comedy. The conductor Anatole Fistoulari realized the true operatic quality of her voice. Kyra Vayne was offered the leading role in Mussorgsky’s Sorochintsy Fair, alternating with Oda Slobodskaya . She sang in all sort of live and radio work during the war. By the end of it she sang Rosalinde under the baton of Richard Tauber who was enthusiastic about her. Her career progressed in 1940. She sang opposite Paolo Silveri and Georgy Pozemkovsky. She was also coached by the legendary Maria Kuznetsova in the leading role of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh. At that time she made three recordings, accompanied by piano only. During the 1950s, she sang for both Welsh and Irish opera companies. She also toured with a group of singers known as The Italian Opera Quartet.  In Scotland, the great Mary Garden was so impressed on Kyra’s singing that she invited her back to her house, where she was presented with Garden’s own original Tosca ring. She sang concerts opposite Boris Christoff and in operas opposite Carlo Bergonzi, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Tito Gobbi and Beniamino Gigli. With the death of her manager, however, her career began to falter. She continued radio work and concert appearances. One of the most important concerts was in Stravinsky’s Les Noces opposite Janet Baker and Berlioz’ La Mort de Cléopâtre.


Portrait 1949



Recital Vol. 1 (Arias/songs by Borodin, Verdi, Gluck, Boito, Tchaikovsky, Spontini, Puccini, Verdi, Schubert, Mussorgsky, Glière, Gretchaninov, Rachmaninov)

Preiser - LV

Recital Vol. 2 (Arias/songs by Tchaikovsky, Kotchetov, Gretchaninov, Vasilenko, Mussorgsky, Szymanovski, Berlioz, Wagner, Puccini, Provost, Bach-Gounod, Lehár, J. Strauss)

Preiser - LV

Nostalgia with Kyra Vayne



Earl Okin “rediscovered” this soprano and Preiser released two CD sets. What we hear is a magnificent dramatic-coloratura with mezzo undertones.Though living in England, there was always a special “Russian timbre” and although her voice was compared to that of Claudia Muzio, it reminds me, however, of Nina Koshetz and Oda Slobodskaya.

The recordings made in the 1940s show the singer in her prime. In the 50/60s her voice had darkened in color, and in my opinion, the beautiful “honey tone” had gone. When listening to the Russian songs of 1964 her formerly so magnificent upper register had become comparatively weak.



My favorite recordings:

- Senta’s Ballad (Senta in The Flying Dutchman / 1946)

- Yaroslavna’s Arioso (Yaroslavna in Prince Igor /Borodin  / 1949)

 Yaroslavna’s Complainte (Yaroslavna in Prince Igor / Borodin / 1949)

- Im Frühling (Schubert / 1949)

- Ernani Ernani involami (Elvira in Ernani / Verdi / 1949)

- L’altra notte in fondo (Maddalena in Mefistofele / Boito / 1958)

- Lisa’s aria (Lisa inThe Queen of Spades / Tchaikovsky / 1958)