Marina Koshetz, who followed her famous Russian diva mother Nina to the opera and concert stage and into motion pictures, has died. She was 88.
Koshetz, who lived in Malibu, died Dec. 9 at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, said her friend, Ann Wakefield.
When the blond soprano made her Los Angeles recital debut at the old Philharmonic Auditorium in 1947, Times reviewer Albert Goldberg praised her for possessing “charm, personality and voice in degrees only occasionally encountered in a single individual.
“She has a voice of distinctively individual timbre,” he wrote, with “the slight tartness and the focused intensity of the characteristic Slavic voice.”
The same year, after Koshetz demonstrated her vocal and comedic talents in the films “No Leave, No Love” and “Holiday in Mexico,” then-Times drama editor Edwin Schallert dubbed her “a multiple-threat personage in the variety of her activities” and touted her as a “spectacular personality.”
Born Aug. 6, 1912, in Moscow, Koshetz was the daughter of artist Alexander von Schubert and operatic soprano Nina Koshetz, herself the daughter of an opera tenor. Trained in France, Marina Koshetz came to the United States as a teenager and made her debut substituting for Nina Koshetz on radio’s “Kraft Music Hall.”
Because of her mother’s international fame, Marina first billed herself under her father’s surname and began appearing in films in the early 1930s as Marina Schubert. Among her 1930s films were “Little Women,” “All the King’s Horses,” “British Agent,” “People Will Talk,” “Car 99" and “Millions in the Air.”
Prodded by her mother, who also acted and taught singing after settling in Hollywood, Marina concentrated more on her voice in the 1940s. She appeared with the San Francisco Opera in 1941 as Tatayana in “Eugene Onegin,” the role in which her mother had made her debut in Moscow in 1913.
Adopting the professional name Marina Koshetz, she went on to sing “The Fair at Sorochinsk” with the New York Metropolitan Opera and perform at the New York Waldorf Hotel and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
At home in Los Angeles, she made her Hollywood Bowl debut on July 22, 1945, and performed there frequently, including operatic roles from “Carmen” and “Die Fledermaus.” She sang in such venues as the Wilshire Ebell Theater and the Biltmore Hotel and performed with John Raitt and Pinky Lee in “Rio Rita” at the Greek Theatre.
Koshetz’s Hollywood career flourished as well, with key roles in “Luxury Liner,” in which as Zita Romanka she sang an excerpt from “Aida” with Wagnerian tenor Lauritz Melchior, and in “The Great Caruso,” in which she played an opera star besting singing competition entrant Mario Lanza.
She continued to have small singing roles in later films, including “On the Riviera” and “Desiree” in the 1950s and “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” and “The Singing Nun” in the 1960s. Her final film was “The Busy Body” in 1967, a gangster comedy starring Sid Caesar and introducing Richard Pryor.
But Koshetz remained best known for her recitals with symphony orchestras across the country, particularly performing, as her mother before her, works of family friend Serge Rachmaninoff and other Russian composers. In 1970, she donated the original manuscripts of Rachmaninoff’s Opus 38, dedicated to her mother, to the Library of Congress.
Wakefield said Koshetz had completed her mother’s biography and a screenplay about the long-secret love story of Rachmaninoff and her mother, both of which she titled “The Last Love Song.”
Married from 1952 to 1961 to plastic surgeon Franklin L. Ashley who taught at the UCLA School of Medicine, Marina Koshetz was an active fund-raiser for the UCLA Medical Center.
Koshetz spent the final decades of her life writing, teaching and painting.