He always strived for individuality and self-expression. She appreciated freedom and challenged tradition. They walked hand in hand for 57 happy years together. And both admitted that they were meant for each other.
An acquaintance at Lilya Brik’s
The first acquaintance was fleeting: they met in 1955 at mutual friends’. At that time, Lilya Brik was recording voices of her friends on a reel-to-reel tape recorder that had just appeared in the USSR, one day she asked Shchedrin: "Would you like to listen to a young ballerina singing Prokofiev's Cinderella?"
Maya's bright and clear voice startled Rodion. But when they met, they didn’t experience any deep feelings. They continued to see each other at different events and talk nicely. In 1956, Plisetskaya married Maris Liepa, but three months later they divorced.
“You and I are the same suit”
At the beginning of 1958, Maya Plisetskaya said at a friend’s party that she would soon be dancing at the Bolshoi Theater in the premiere performance of Spartacus. Rodion Shchedrin, among others, asked to get tickets. The performance was a triumph: a delighted audience, a storm of applause and brilliant Maya!
The next morning, he called to tell her how much he admired her. At that time Shchedrin was working on the music for the ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse for the Bolshoi Theater and asked permission to visit a rehearsal in order to better understand and feel the atmosphere of the ballet.
During this rehearsal, he fell in love. Later, Rodion Konstantinovich said:
They never parted since then. He was 25 years old; she was 32. He was already a famous composer, she was a prima ballerina. At that time, you couldn’t even check in to the same hotel room without a marriage stamp in the passport. And the party leadership told Plisetskaya quite openly: “If you get married, our attitude will be more loyal.” So, the two people, who loved freedom and didn’t want any official relationships, registered their marriage in the fall of 1958.
America and peonies
A few months after the beginning of their life together, Plisetskaya left on a long-awaited tour of America. The expectation was extremely nervous: the ballerina didn’t know if the Soviet leadership would allow her to go or not. But parting was harder.
73 marks on the calendar - 73 days of separation, which Shchedrin crossed out every day, bringing Maya's return closer.
Brilliant performances, receptions, acquaintances with foreign celebrities - nothing could distract Plisetskaya from her thoughts about Shchedrin. She called him at the first opportunity, and they talked for a long time.
Finally, the tour was over, and he was picking her up at the airport. In her autobiography, I, Maya Plisetskaya, the ballerina wrote:
Later, that variety of peonies - pale pink, almost white - were called by the breeders in her honor “Maya Plisetskaya".
"We’ve got a lucky ticket in life"
The two great people, who reached all possible heights and world recognition in their profession, walked through life, supporting and admiring each other. They always had something to overcome: torments of creativity, prohibitions of the management, obstacles of the regime. But they were two, they were together.
The love of Maya Plisetskaya and Rodion Shchedrin was of the same highest standard as was their work. They complemented and helped each other not only in life, but also in work.
There was beauty in her every movement, and he never tired of admiring her throughout all these years. In an interview, Rodion Konstantinovich shared:
Maya Mikhailovna never hid her love too:
“Combine our ashes together”
Maya Plisetskaya passed away in 2015, in Munich, suddenly and rapidly. The night before, they both went to a football match, and now, suddenly - her heart! Doctors did their best, but she died in two days, she was almost 90 years old.
Rodion Konstantinovich lives in Munich now, he fondly keeps the memory of his brilliant, incomparable Maya Mikhailovna, who has remained his only Muse.
They even made one will for the two of them: