Opera soloist Zuzana Masiulevičiūtė created approximately 90 characteristic roles during her career in the Kaunas State Musical Theatre in 1949-1981. Because of her tendency to impart her characters vividly, emphasizing distinctive and often comic features, the singer was titled as the queen of comic roles.

The funds of M. and K. Petrauskai Branch of the Kaunas City Museum has collected and preserved approximately 500 exhibits related to the creative heritage of this opera soloist on the theatre stage.

The exhibition was prepared by museologist Deimantė Kondrotaitė.

Queen Clementine – Z. Masiulevičiūtė in J. Offenbach’s comic opera “Blue-beard” (“Barbe Bleue”). Author unknown. Kaunas, 1964. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-9301

The Road to the Big Stage

Zuzana Masiulevičiūtė was born on November 14, 1921 in Kalvarija. Her first singing teacher was her mom. She had a very nice voice, and she was singing in all baptisms, weddings, and funerals. The daughter, like her mother, loved singing and acting in amateur groups. At school, she was singing in choirs and ensembles, and when she was fourteen, she sang solo for the first time in Kaunas, at the Labour Palace (now Kaunas Cultural Center).

Z. Masiulevičiūtė with her mom. Author unknown. Ca. 1924. Kaunas City Museum. PMMPEK-17058/17

“I was already a famous artist. I was a primadonna in the drama group at Alytus Labour Palace. I sang in church and adult choir of the public organization “Jaunalietuviai” and I was also staging a ballet: I gathered some small girls and taught them to dance. We made stage dresses from paper,” the soloist shared her memories during the interview. (Strackienė, Neonila. “… and the Old Waltz was Played …” // Kauno diena, July 13, 1996). At that time Zuzana was 16.

Z. Masiulevičiūtė with her little ballet dancers in Alytus Culture House. Ca. 1936. Author unknown. Kaunas City Museum. PMMPEK-17058/30

It is not surprising that the path of the girl turned to the Vilnius Music School and the Conservatory. In 1949, Z. Masiulevičiūtė graduated from the Lithuanian State Conservatory, the group of vocal teacher P. Kaveckienė. She remembers with pride the words of Borisas Dauguvietis after one exam: “This is such a clay from which much can be moulded.”

(Klimauskaitė, Daina. “It Seems it was only Yesterday”// Kauno diena, December 8, 2001)

Z. Masiulevičiūtė during the state singing exam at the Lithuanian State Conservatory. Author unknown. Vilnius, 1949. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14547/3

32 years of cultural activity

On December 31, 1942, Z. Masiulevičiūtė made her debut at the Kaunas State Musical Theater, performing the role of Germaine in R.  Planquette’s comic opera “The Bells of Corneville.“

Germaine - Z. Masiulevičiūtė and Henri de Corneville – V. Rimkevičius in R. Planquette’s comic opera “The Bells of Corneville.“ Author unknown. Kaunas, 1949. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14180/2

Later, the roles of lyrical heroes followed. The soloist told: “I sang Silva, Maritza, and I was very successful. I just appeared on stage and the audience applauded. I used to think that they made a mistake and they thought that Jadvyga Steckaitė was here. But no, it turned out that they applauded me.

(Strackienė, Neonila. “… and the Old Waltz was Played …” // Kauno diena, July 13, 1996)

Maritza - Z. Masiulevičiūtė in I. Kalman’s operetta “Maritza.“ Author unknown. Kaunas, 1950. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14180/14

For the first time, Z. Masiulevičiūtė’s creative capabilities were revealed in 1950, in J. Milyutin’s operetta “Trembita,“ where she created the role of Parasia Nikanorovna. After this role, she was associated with comic and the so-called “negative” characters. The soloist’s creative cooperation with the comic genre artists Leonas Stanevičius and Kazys Mikalauskas began.

Parasia - Z. Masiulevičiūtė and Filimon - L. Stanevičius in J. Milyutin's operetta “Trembita.“ Author unknown. Kaunas, 1950. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14181/7

At first, the soloist even resisted that being a young and beautiful actress she would need to play old and bad characters. “I wanted to be beautiful on stage. I even went to the ministry to complain about why I was given only character roles. I remember, in Šiauliai, Vytautas Rimkevičius invited all group and scolded me. He said that heroic actresses are rapidly getting older, that there will be many and new ones, and that I will be able to continue working in the theater as I get older,” Z. Masiulevičiūtė shared her memories.

(Strackienė, Neonila. “… and the Old Waltz was Played …” // Kauno diena, July 13, 1996)

Cabaret singer Angela - Z. Masiulevičiūtė in J. Milyutin's operetta “Chana’s Kiss.” Author unknown. Kaunas, 1961. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14181/44

This is what happened: the soloist was working in the theater for 32 years and created approximately 90 extremely expressive and colourful roles. The role of Magdalina Yerofeyevna in the operetta “Spring Sings” by Soviet composer D. Kabalevsky is considered to be a great success. Bright makeup, cautious and sneaky movement and subservient intonations when trying to ingratiate, or rudeness when there was no threat were the typical features of this character. Moreover, the satirical duo about protection crowned  everything: “It’s very good to have your own people in the sanatorium, the clinic, and even the crematorium.”

(Tamulaitis, Albinas. Bright and Vivid Pictures // Teatras, 1973. No. 3, p. 34)

Magdalina Yerofeyevna - Z. Masiulevičiūtė and Lolita Lepioshkina - E. Gedikaitė (on the left) in D. Kabalevsky’s operetta "Spring Sings." Author unknown. Kaunas, 1958. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14181/17

Neilon, perlon, kapron – now the best material of all,” sang Leokadia, a speculator who was chasing temporary fashions in B. Gorbulski’s operetta “Love and Tin.” This character was recognized as the most interesting in the Lithuanian theater of that time. The soloist’s acting was so compelling that it seemed like “she came on the stage with her nylons and perlons straight from a bazaar or gateway,” wrote Julia Latakienė.

(Latakienė, Julija. “Her Friend is a Smile” // Kalba Vilnius, December 25, 1971)

Leokadija - Z. Masiulevičiūtė in B. Gorbulski's operetta "Love and Tin." Author unknown. Kaunas, 1960. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-9190

One of the best Z. Masiulevičiūtė’s late roles was the Witch in V. Ganelin’s play for children “The Girl is looking for a Fairy Tale.” The soloist perceived director Vlada Mikštaitė’s concept of the play very well and created a lively and very funny portrait of a fabulous character. She was miserable, lazy, and negligent, but not bad, rather impudent and stupid.

(Tamulaitis, Albinas. “The Main Motive is Optimism” // Kauno tiesa, June 1, 1975)

The Witch - Z. Masiulevičiūtė and the Shadow - A. Jacunskas in the musical fairy-tale “Let the Little Girl Smile.” Author unknown. Kaunas, 1973. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14181/66

“Most of the characters that I have played are negative. However, they are not evil by nature. This is because of life circumstances, without finding a way out of difficult situations,” the singer claimed. Therefore, it should be mentioned that Z. Masiulevičiūtė never played a schematic evil, or evil in general, but always tried to reveal its origin. All her characters are original and peculiar, and their comic features stem from sincere naivety and the inability to comprehend trickier situations.

(Tamulaitis, Albinas. Bright and Vivid Pictures // Teatras, 1973. No. 3, p. 34)

Procurer Celestina - Z. Masiulevičiūtė in B. Gorbulskis’s operetta “Don Juan or Love for Geometry.” Author unknown. Kaunas, 1969. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14181/68

The soloist gave numerous concerts in Lithuania and the USSR. She helped on the radio and sang the first recordings of operettas staged at the Kaunas Musical Theater.

Tour of the Kaunas State Musical Theater in Tallinn. Z. Masiulevičiūtė is the first from left to right, standing. Author unknown. 1961. Kaunas City Museum. PMMPEK-17057/93

The audience particularly enjoyed the duet of Zuzana and K. Mikalauskas from the operetta “Wedding in Malinovka”, when “Yashka taught Garpina to dance a foxtrot, and when we with L. Stanevičius were singing about the youth that has passed, the audience would look for handkerchiefs.”

(Klimauskaitė, Daina. “It Seems it was Yesterday” // Kauno diena, December 8, 2001)

Tryndychikha - Z. Masiulevičiūtė in B. Aleksandrov’s musical comedy "Wedding in Malinovka." Author unknown, 1960. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14181/1

During one interview, the soloist joked: “I’ve travelled quite a lot, both literally and indirectly. With Stanevičius, we were Italians (“Sunday in Rome”), French (“The Tobacco Capitain”), Moldavians (“Trembita”); and with Mikalauskas we were Austrians (“The Count of Luxembourg”), Azerbaijanis (“My Neighbour Romeo”), and Latvians (“Amber Coast Guys”).”

Scene from G. Kramer’s operetta "Sunday in Rome." From left to right: Augusta – Z. Masiulevičiūtė, Annibale - L. Stanevičius, Giovanna – F. Viržonytė. Author unknown, 1966. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14181/53

From 1976 to 1981, Z. Masiulevičiūtė worked as a director’s assistant at the Kaunas State Musical Theater: she contributed to staging B. Britten’s play for children “Let’s Make an Opera”, A. Bražinskas’s musical “Pagramantis Talkers,” A. Kolker’s musical comedy “Truffaldino,” R. Friml’s operetta “Rosemarie,” etc.

Matron of honour - Z. Masiulevičiūtė in A. Bražinskas’s musical "Pagramantis Talkers." Author unknown, 1976. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14181/101

Debut in Cinema

The soloist also acted in cinema. In 1957, she performed the role of Pampikienė in the director V. Mikalauskas’s feature film “The Blue Horizon”, which was produced in the Lithuanian Film Studio. After the screening of the film, J. Baltušis wrote the following: “The acting is so natural, warm, and sensitive, and the behaviour in front of the camera is so free that it feels like watching real life rather than a film.”

(Kaunaitė, I. “Life Dedicated to the Theatre” // Kauno tiesa, November 15, 1981)

Pampikienė - Z. Masiulevičiūtė in V. Mikalauskas's feature film "The Blue Horizon." The Lithuanian Film Studio. 1957. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14180/89

Memoirs of Contemporaries

In her memoirs, B. Petravičiūtė wrote that Z. Masiulevičiūtė was “not only a soloist but also a great makeup artist who could make Merlin Monroe from a monkey. When putting on makeup, she explained why one or another colour was applied here, why such a stroke was needed, or what kind of eyebrows fit for a young woman. She would put on make-up with sticks.”

(Petravičiūtė, Bernarda. Unopened Letters: Poems and Memoirs.// Kaunas, 2012)

Z. Masiulevičiūtė in Palanga. Photo atelier “Palanga.” 1954. Kaunas City Museum. PMMPEK-17057/77

In his article, singer K. Mikalauskas wrote the following: “During the post-war years, the soloist group was small, only 17 people; thus, we had to work without a break. Zuzana was always among the most active ones. She was fun and satirical; she managed to create a good mood under difficult conditions. ”

(Mikalauskas, Kazys.“Still Full of Dreams, I’m still Pretty and that’s It…” Kultūros barai, 1981, No. 11)

Z. Masiulevičiūtė’s 60th anniversary at the Kaunas State Musical Theatre. The soloist performed the role of Colombina in J. Strauss’s operetta “The Funny War.” Author unknown. 1979. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14180/88

Director V. Mikštaitė told the following: “I was fascinated by her creativity, inexhaustible energy, imagination, and enthusiasm. Her performance on stage was somewhat joyful, full of optimism, and eliciting a lively reaction from the audience. I don’t remember seeing her tired or in a bad mood; I don’t remember Zuzana giving up her work, role, or concert.”

(Kaunaitė, I. “Life Dedicated to the Theatre” // Kauno tiesa, November 15, 1981)

The last Z. Masiulevičiūtė’s role – Serafina in A. Kolker's operetta “Romance in a Resort.” Author unknown. Kaunas, 1981. Kaunas City Museum. PMMGEK-14181/86

Zuzana Masiulevičiūtė died on December 6th, 2018, being at the age of 97.

Zuzana Masiulevičiūtė. J. Dagilis’s photo atelier. Kaunas, ca. 1950. Kaunas City Museum. PMMPEK-17057/5

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