Yelena Obraztsova was one of the reigning dramatic mezzos of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as one of the leading figures in the emergence of Soviet singers into the rest of the world. Her extraordinary stage presence and distinctive, rich timbre were always exciting, if not always finely nuanced, and her dramatic abilities put her in great demand for opera films and videos. She studied at the Leningrad Conservatory and in 1964, made her Bolshoi debut, while still a student, in a starring role as Marina in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, a student, an unusual accomplishment. She joined the company roster as a soloist, and was soon an acknowledged star in the major Russian, French, and Italian roles. In 1975, as the political and cultural thaw in the Soviet Union continued, she made her United States debut as part of the touring Bolshoi company in San Francisco as Azucena in Verdi's Il trovatore, followed that same year by her Metropolitan debut as Marina, and by her La Scala debut as Charlotte in Massenet's Werther. In 1986, she produced her first opera, Werther, at the Bolshoi. By the mid-'90s, she began to accept fewer leading roles, concentrating instead on cameo parts, directing, recitals and concerts, and giving master classes.