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Pronunciation of Ballet Names

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I'm going to make this a sticky. Please feel free to add to it.

If anyone disagrees with a pronunciation, please feel free to raise an objection. In the interests of helpfulness to future readers, when we reach a conclusion, I'll edit out all the back and forth so future generations of Ballet Alertniks don't have to wade through it.

This will be a list of acceptable American pronunciations of non-English names.

Beginning with Big Lee's first questions:

Marius Petipa: Mar yus PET ee pah

Alexandra Danilova: Da NEEL ova

Tamara Toumanova: Too MAHN ova

Rudolf Nureyev: Ru dolf Noo RAY yev

Julia Makhalina: YOO-lee-ah Ma-KHA-lina (thanks, Hans)

Natalia Makarova: Nah TAL ya Ma KAR ova

Svetlana Zakharova: Svet LAHN a Za KAR ova

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Alexandra, here are some ballerina names with the accent in the right place. Checked with my Russian Ballet Encyclopaedia.

Asylmura'tova Altynai

Ayu'pova Zhanna

Bessme'rtnova Natalia

Che'nchikova Olga

Chistyako'va Irina

Dudi'nskaya Natalia

Evte'yeva Elena

Fe'dorova Sofia

Go'likova Tatiana

Grache'va Nadezhda

Ivano'va Veronika

Karsa'vina Tamara

Kolpako'va Irina

Kondra'tieva Marina

Likho'vskaya Olga

Lopa'tkina Uliana

Maxi'mova Ekaterina

Me'zentseva Galina

Mikha'lchenko Alla

Osipe'nko Alla

Plise'tskaya Maya

Semenya'ka Ludmila

Semizo'rova Nina

Semyo'nova Marina

Sizo'va Alla

Soro'kina Nina

Spessi'vtzeva Olga

Struchko'va Raisa

Te'rekhova Tatiana

Timofey'eva Nina

Trefi'lova Vera

Ula'nova Galina

Veche'slova Tatiana

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In reading over Jorgen's list, I had a few questions. There are several names that seem to "break the rules," such as:

Fe'dorova Sofia

Go'likova Tatiana

Ivano'va Veronika

Me'zentseva Galina

Can any Russian speakers, or others familiar with these names confirm or clarify?

I've always heard Ivanova pronounced EeVAN o va

and Mezentseva pronounced Me ZEN tse va

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I've always heard Ivanova pronounced EeVAN o va

Ivanova is the most confusing name of all as different families pronounce it with the stress on different syllables, so the only way to be certain is to ask

Nureyev is one of the most difficult names to pronounce, even for Russians, as it's not a Russian name. In France his name is spelt as Noureev so perhaps pronouncing it as Noo-ree-yev comes closest.

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Regarding Eva Evdokimova, her name is Bulgarian. Her father was an emigre from Bulgaria, her mother American. They met as students in Munich. Eva was born 1948 in Geneva, Switzerland, but she got an American passport. She spent most of her childhood and youth in Germany and England. She made her debut in the States only in 1977 when she was 29 years.

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Regarding Jorgen's post about pronouncing Tatiana Terekhova's name — I have a video of La Bayadère with Terekhova as Gamzatti in which the Russian announcer pronounces her name with the stress on the second syllable, which is the way I've always pronounced it. :blushing: She also rolls the "r."

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I think that mashinka has hit on the property that we've been missing here. All of the names we've mentioned here are of ethnicities and how they are pronounced outside of their own ethnic areas. I guess the only sure way to find out how names are properly said is to ask the person him/herself. Unfortunately, that puts Petipa somewhere out of reach. I have a feeling that many would say, "Say it how you like, just, good or bad, make sure it's spelled correctly in the review!" :blushing:

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Thanks for Vaganova, Marga -- that's a good one!

Cindy, I've always heard/said KOTCH ki (last syllable to rhyme with pie) but I won't go to the mat on that one :) As for spelling, I think this is another transliteration issue: there can be many interpretations of Cyrillic. The way you've spelled it is the way I've usually seen it, though. Happy sewing!

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From a post sometime in July:

Regarding Jorgen's post about pronouncing Tatiana Terekhova's name — I have a video of La Bayadère with Terekhova as Gamzatti in which the Russian announcer pronounces her name with the stress on the second syllable, which is the way I've always pronounced it

Interestingly, when I listened to the same Russian announcer, I heard the stress on the first syllable.

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Something the lists showing the accented syllables might not be correctly showing is the pronunciation of syllables with "e" in them. In Russian, there's a letter “ë”, which is pronounced “yo”, and if it occurs in a syllable, that syllable is always stressed. When it’s transliterated into English, it’s usually interpreted as “e.” Vishneva, for example, should be Vish-NYO-va. (I noticed the more correct transliteration in a French forum, and then checked with the Russian program seller when the Kirov was here.) The final vowel sound in Yuri Soloviev’s last name should be “yo”, which is how I’ve sometimes seen it transliterated in recent years.

Russian is not completely phonetic — some vowel sounds change depending on whether they’re stressed or unstressed (e.g., an unstressed “o” is pronounced like an unstressed “a” — somewhere between “ah” and “uh”). If a consonant is the last letter in a word, it’s pronounced unvoiced, even if it’s a voiced consonant. For example, all those “-ev” endings should really be pronounced “-ef” (the alternate spelling “Prokofieff” is sometimes seen). There are more rules, but if all these rules were followed in the transliterations, the names might look quite different than the transliterations were used to seeing. It would be handy if everyone were taught the international phonetic alphabet.

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I suspect that the name "Fe'dorova" is actually "Fyo'dorova" (see my lengthy post above). I'm not 100% sure, though -- I'd only know for sure if I saw it written in Russian. Any Russians (or more knowledgeable non-Russians) out there who could verify this?

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Why, thank you, Alexandra! When I re-read that post, I realized that the "ieff" ending proposed as a correct pronunciation is still lacking, because the "e" when unstressed is like an "i". So "yif" would be better. So "prah-KO-fyif" would probably be even better. (Now I hope a Russian doesn't inform me that the last vowel is actually a “ë” . . . and it should be pronounced “prah-kah-FYOF” . . . I guess sticking to just putting the stress on the correct syllable is probably good enough!)

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