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The wife of a «traitor to the Motherland»

At the age of 17, she founded the Moscow Children's Theater (nowadays known as RAMT), and at 28, she became the world's first female opera director, staging Verdi's "Falstaff" at the Berlin Kroll Opera House. However, upon her return to the USSR in 1937, she was arrested as the wife of a "traitor to the Motherland." Her husband, Israel Veitzer, the People's Commissar of Internal Trade, was accused of counter-revolutionary activities. She faced 5 years in the Gulag and then exile. Upon returning to Moscow at the age of 61, she founded another theater - the world's first children's musical theater, which now bears her name: the Moscow Children's Musical Theater named after Natalia Sats.

Natalia Sats

Natalia Sats was born on August 27, 1903, in Irkutsk, into the family of cellist and composer Ilya Sats and singer Anna Shchastnaya. In 1904, the family moved to Moscow, where Ilya Sats obtained the position of head of the music department and conductor at the Moscow Art Theatre.

From childhood, she was surrounded by creative people. Sergei Rachmaninoff, Konstantin Stanislavski, Yevgeny Vakhtangov, and other figures of the arts were friends of the family and frequent guests at their Moscow home.

Her theatrical debut took place when she was barely a year old. In 1905, Vsevolod Meyerhold staged Maurice Maeterlinck's play "The Death of Tintagiles" at the Moscow Art Theatre, and Ilya Sats was tasked with composing the music. According to Meyerhold's concept, the music was supposed to feature the sound of a newborn's cry at the climax of the play. However, neither the director nor the composer were satisfied with instrumental imitations of the cry or attempts by actors and musicians to portray it. Sats sought the utmost authenticity in sound. Suddenly, during a dress rehearsal, he rushed home and returned with Natasha wrapped in a blanket. The conductor placed his daughter on a chair near the conductor's stand and began the rehearsal. At the crucial moment, he gave the baby a bottle of baby food—and then took it away. Natasha burst into tears and "cried at full volume." Meyerhold was thrilled, but Anna, the mother of the new star of the Moscow Art Theatre, was not.

As a teenager, Natalia participated in the Griboyedov Drama Studio, and in 1917, she graduated from the Alexander Scriabin Music College. A year later, when Sats was only 15 years old, she became the head of the children's sector at the Theatrical-Musical Section of the Moscow Council of Workers' Deputies. It was at Sats's initiative that the first children's theater in Russia, the Moscow Council Children's Theater, was established.

In 1921, at the age of 17, Natalia Sats founded the Moscow Children's Theater (modern-day RAMT), where she remained as artistic director for 16 years. One of the most authoritative Russian theater critics, Pavel Markov, remembered Sats as "a girl, almost a child, who swiftly and energetically entered the complex structure of Moscow's theatrical life and forever retained a responsible understanding of her life and creative calling."

She aimed to create a theater that would serve as a portal to a bright and fantastical world for children of all ages, a place of limitless imagination—and she succeeded.

Natalia Ilyinichna Sats

Natalia Ilyinichna Sats

After acclaimed German conductor Otto Klemperer witnessed Sats' directorial work in children's theater, he invited her to Berlin and proposed staging Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Falstaff" at the Kroll Opera House.

For Sats, this production proved to be a real breakthrough: she became the first woman director of opera in the world — an internationally renowned figure in the theater world without exaggeration. Her other overseas opera productions also met with success: Richard Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung" and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" at the Teatro Colón in Argentina. Buenos Aires newspapers wrote: "The Russian artist-director has ushered in a new era in opera art. The production ['The Marriage of Figaro'] is deeply psychological, akin to drama, making it both novel and appealing to the audience."

Upon returning to the USSR in 1937, Natalia Sats was arrested as the wife of a "traitor to the Motherland." Her husband, Israel Veizer, the People's Commissar for Internal Trade, was accused of counter-revolutionary activities.

Natalia Ilyinichna Sats

While in prison, she suffered a miscarriage, experienced partial paralysis, and was later admitted to a disabled home. Her mother saved her by bringing a parcel and a concert dress to Siblag so that her daughter could continue serving art even there. Natalia organized a choir circle and began staging performances.

Sats spent five years in the Gulag, and after her release, she went to Alma-Ata since she was not allowed to return to Moscow. In Kazakhstan, she founded the first Almaty Young Spectator Theater, where she worked for 13 years.

In 1953, while in exile, Natalia Sats received higher education: she completed her studies at the theater faculty of GITIS through correspondence, later defended her dissertation, and became a candidate of art history. From 1981, she taught at GITIS and became a professor in 1984.
Returning to Moscow, Natalia could no longer take her previous position. She led the All-Russian Touring Theater, and later the children's department of Mosestrada.

Natalia Ilyinichna Sats

In 1964, Natalia Sats founded the world's first Moscow Children's Musical Theater, which now bears her name. In 1979, it moved to a specially designed building on Vernadsky Avenue, crowned with the sculpture of the Blue Bird. She directed not only children's plays but also "adult" operas by Mozart, Puccini, and included "serious" classical music in symphonic subscriptions.

Natalia Sats was married three times, and love was a source of inspiration for her. Her life companions were educator, writer, and director Sergei Rozanov (1894 - 1957), USSR trade representative in Poland Nikolai Popov (1892 - 1977), and People's Commissar of Internal Trade of the USSR Israel Veitzer (1889 - 1938). She had three children: Adrian (1923 – 1996; some sources mention an incorrect year of birth – 1919), Roxana, and Ilya. She continued working until the last moment, and she was almost taken from rehearsals to the maternity hospital. Adrian spent most of his adult life in Kazakhstan and worked as a journalist. Ilya lives in Canada. Roxana Nikolaevna Sats-Karpova works at the theater named after her mother.

Natalia Ilyinichna Sats

Natalia Ilyinichna Sats

In her final years, Natalia Sats taught at GITIS, founded a charitable foundation to promote the development of art for children, and wrote numerous books and guides on music education.

Natalia Sats passed away on December 18, 1993. She was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

The GOOGLE logo commemorating the 110th anniversary of Natalia Sats' birth.

Based on information from publicly available sources.