Natella Tovstonogova

Natella Tovstonogova

Widow of actor Evgeny Lebedev and sister of an outstanding director
Date of Birth: 24.05.1926
Country: Russia

  1. Biography of Natella Tovstonogova
  2. Early Life
  3. Marriage
  4. Activities
  5. Personal Life
  6. Last Decade of Life
  7. Death

Biography of Natella Tovstonogova

Natella Tovstonogova was a Russian theater figure, the widow of actor Yevgeny Lebedev, and the sister of the renowned director Georgy Tovstonogov. She was born into a noble family to Alexander Andreevich Tolstonogov and Tamara Grigorievna Papitashvili. Her parents studied in St. Petersburg from 1907 to 1912, with her father graduating from the Institute of Communication and her mother studying vocal performance at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. They got married in 1912 and had two children, Natella's older brother Georgy, and Natella herself.

In 1919, due to the turbulent revolutionary events, the family moved to Tbilisi, the homeland of Natella's mother. At birth, her name was given as Natella, but during the Soviet era, one letter "l" was dropped when changing passports, resulting in the official spelling of her name as "Natela." Her father's noble surname was Tolstonogov, but her mother did not like the surname and changed the letter "l" to "v" when changing passports. This change in surname was noticed by V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko when the future director applied to the directing faculty.

Early Life

Natella Tovstonogova studied at the medical institute in Moscow but had to leave her studies due to family circumstances. From the age of 17, she became the caretaker of the future great theater family, the Lebedev-Tovstonogovs. She played a central role in the family's daily life and creative endeavors, supporting both her brother and husband in their artistic pursuits. In 1946, after the death of her brother, she became the guardian of his two young sons. She raised them as her own, as their mother had abandoned them.


In 1949, Natella Tovstonogova followed her brother to Leningrad, where he became the chief director of the Leningrad Theater named after Lenin's Komsomol, and married actor Yevgeny Lebedev. Her mother was initially against the marriage, not because of the age difference between Natella and Yevgeny (he was 10 years older), but because he was still married and had a daughter from his first marriage.

Yevgeny Lebedev eventually became a leading actor in the theater company and later in the Bolshoi Drama Theater. He became a true support and ally for the Tovstonogov family. Natella Tovstonogova never held any official positions and never worked officially in the Bolshoi Drama Theater. However, her influence on the cultural and social atmosphere of the theater and the city was highly valued by cultural figures such as G. B. Volchek.


Natella Tovstonogova was known for her tact, intelligence, and strength. She never got involved in intrigues but never hid her opinions. According to R. Furmanov, often her opinion became decisive for Tovstonogov. She was an unofficial theater critic in Leningrad and later in St. Petersburg, analyzing and discussing dramatic performances in detail. She played a central role in the life and creativity of the Tovstonogov-Lebedev family.

Personal Life

Natella Tovstonogova was known for her exceptional talent, creative intuition, and impeccable taste. She was always interested in fashion and was known for her impeccable style. After the deaths of Georgy Tovstonogov and Yevgeny Lebedev, she remained the link between the Tovstonogov era and the present day. Her friends included Galina Volchek, Natela Lordkipanidze, and the Zurab Tsereteli family.

Last Decade of Life

The first decade of the new century was dramatic for Natella Tovstonogova's family. Her nephew, Alexander Tovstonogov, passed away in 2002, and her grandson, Georgy Tovstonogov Jr., died tragically in 2012. In addition, the publication of a book by Mark Rozovsky in 2006, which criticized the staging of the famous play "The Story of a Horse" by Georgy Tovstonogov, created tensions within the family.

In 2009-2010, Natella Tovstonogova worked with Rudolf Furmanov to commemorate the memory of Georgy Tovstonogov in St. Petersburg. She selected a location for a square where a monument to Georgy Tovstonogov could be installed. With her efforts, the financing for the monument was secured, and it was unveiled in 2010.


Natella Tovstonogova suffered a stroke on November 19, 2012, which left her in critical condition. She passed away on March 10, 2013, at the age of 97. Her death was a tragedy for the cultural community, as she was seen as an influential figure and a link to the Tovstonogov era. Her funeral was attended by artists from the Bolshoi Drama Theater and other theaters, as well as the Governor of St. Petersburg. She was laid to rest at the Necropolis of Artists on the Volkovskoye Cemetery.