Olga Lepeshinskaya, 92, Bolshoi prima ballerina
MOSCOW - Olga Lepeshinskaya, the Bolshoi Ballet's prima ballerina for three decades during the Soviet times, has died at the age of 92.
Nataliya Uvarova, a spokeswoman for Russia's Culture Ministry, said Mrs. Lepeshinskaya died yesterday of an unspecified illness. The ITAR-Tass news agency reported that Mrs. Lepeshinskaya died in her Moscow apartment in her sleep.
Mrs. Lepeshinskaya was born to a noble family in Kiev in 1916. When she first tried to enter the Bolshoi choreographic school, she was rejected.
The school admitted her shortly afterward, in 1925, and Lepeshinskaya graduated in 1933, immediately joining the Bolshoi Ballet. She was rumored to be the favorite ballerina of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, and received the coveted Stalin Prize on four occasions.
As Bolshoi's prima, Mrs. Lepeshinskaya danced Kitri in "Don Quixote," Tao Hoa in "The Red Poppy," Jeanne in "The Flame of Paris," Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty," and Masha in "The Nutcracker" among other parts.
During World War II, Mrs. Lepeshinskaya participated in the Bolshoi's traveling company, which performed before Red Army soldiers on the front line.
She recalled in the 2006 interview that she broke her leg during the first performance of "The Red Poppy" in 1953, but managed to complete her part despite four fractures diagnosed later.
Mrs. Lepeshinskaya married Soviet General Alexei Antonov in 1956. In 1962, when her husband died, she temporarily lost her sight. "I had a nervous breakdown and everything went black," she recalled.
In 1963, she left the ballet and turned to teaching, spending several years in East Germany before returning to the Soviet Union.