Pugacheva, Alla Borisovna


Pugacheva, Alla Borisovna
▪ 1998

      By 1997 Russian pop idol Alla Pugacheva had reportedly sold as many as 250 million records—perhaps more than the amount sold by U.S. pop star Michael Jackson—but they were nearly all in Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union. Widely admired at home, she was still little known elsewhere.

      Pugacheva was born in Moscow on April 15, 1949, and, like most Russian young people, was reared on classical music. She studied at the A.V. Lunacharsky State Institute of Theatre Art, Moscow, in the department of variety music and launched her career in 1965 with "Robot," a rock song that proved a modest success. Disappointed with similarly styled songs that were written for her, Pugacheva toured the Soviet Union in search of a singing style that would move audiences and make use of her vocal finesse and expressive stage presence. While performing in obscurity over the next decade, she developed a versatile pop style that was coloured by Western influences but quintessentially Slavic in its dramatic and emotional appeal.

      In 1975 Pugacheva won the grand prize at the Golden Orpheus Song Festival in Bulgaria with her interpretation of "Arlekino" ("The Harlequin"). Her performance of the song, which was broadcast on Soviet television and recorded a short time later by Melodiya, the Soviet record monopoly, finally brought her success and public recognition. Thereafter, hit followed hit, her concerts were sellouts, and she rapidly became every Russian's favourite performer. A major fixture at European song festivals during the late 1970s and early '80s, the flamboyant strawberry-blonde Pugacheva also turned her talents to motion pictures and television. She appeared in such films as Jenschina, Kotoraya poet (1977; "The Woman Who Sings") and Prishla i govoryo (1985; "Came to Say") and in television productions throughout Europe. In 1988 she was named artistic director of a studio theatre, the Theatre of Song, in Moscow, and that same year she toured the U.S. for the first time. Pugacheva was proclaimed National Artist of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 by Pres. Mikhail Gorbachev.

      As the country's leading—perhaps only—pop superstar, she had an uninhibited and extravagant lifestyle that included a white stretch limousine, a chic apartment in the centre of Moscow, and four husbands (the latest, Filipp Kirkorov, was himself a rock star and 18 years younger than Pugacheva) and drew much attention in the tabloid press. In 1997 she won the dubious honour of becoming the subject of the first unauthorized biography published in Russia, Aleksey Belyakov's Alka, Allochka, Alla Borisovna. The year also saw the release of a 13-CD set of her recordings entitled Kollektsiya ("Collection").

      Nonetheless, Pugacheva still had difficulty finding an audience for her music outside the Russian-speaking area, and she was clearly out of her element at the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin in May 1997, where she finished in 15th place. Amid speculation that her retirement from the stage loomed in the near future, the versatile Pugacheva seemed to be finding new ways to keep her name before her public. Having already launched a line of clothing and a perfume, in Moscow in April she showed her spring and autumn collection of shoes, which was received positively by the press and enthusiastically by her legions of fans.

SUSAN DOLL

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Universalium. 2010.

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