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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soviet-Era Ballerina to Star in Opera

At the stately age of 72, Maya Plisetskaya, the grand dame of Russian ballet whose performance as a dying swan lives on as one of the most memorable images of Soviet ballet, could be striking out on a new career as a singer.

The evergreen Plisetskaya has agreed to sing the part of the countess in a film production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's opera "The Queen of Spades," the producer of the project said Thursday.

"I saw Plisetskaya several days ago, and she was anxious to start recording," said film producer Yury Nasedkin, who is currently working on a film production of another Tchaikovsky opera, "Eugene Onegin."

The project's creative director, Alexander Kulyamin, convinced the famous dancer to participate, Nasedkin said. The producer did not disclose how much the ballerina would be paid for her performance.

Plisetskaya, who is celebrated in the ballet world for her technical virtuosity, expressive use of arms and her integration of acting into dance, still performs and teaches ballet. She acted in a movie in the 1970s to critical acclaim, but has never before been noted for her singing prowess.

Plisetskaya was not available for comment. She left Moscow on Wednesday, but her assistant, reached at Plisetskaya's Moscow apartment, confirmed that "there have been conversations about the opera."

Irina Yali, director of the "Queen of Spades" project, said the dancer agreed to perform almost six months ago, and a formal letter of intention was signed late in April. Both producer and director said they had no doubts that the dancer will give a great performance.

"The part of the countess is not that big, and Plisetskaya has a nice, low voice," Yali said. She was not sure if the dancer, whose husband is the composer Rodion Shchedrin, would take singing lessons to get ready for the opera.

"She is married to a composer. I am sure she knows quite well what she is capable of," said Yali.

But the film's organizers frankly admit that Plisetskaya has not been hired for her singing ability alone. The project has been plagued by financial problems, and Nasedkin said he hoped that the publicity generated by Plisetskaya's participation would help attract sponsors.

Both operas are based on works by the poet Alexander Pushkin.

His 200th anniversary comes up next year, and the project's organizers want both films finished in time for the anniversary celebrations.

Work on "Eugene Onegin" is incomplete because the organizers have run out of money.

So far, they have spent $750,000 from a private Russian sponsor but need at least a further $1 million to finish the film. Production of "The Queen of Spades" will cost $5 million to $6 million, Yali said.

The original plan was to start shooting "The Queen of Spades" at the end of July, but this depends on whether financial backing can be found by then.