Catherine [Yekaterina] II [née Sophie Auguste Fredericke von Anhalt-Zerbst]
- Richard Taruskin
[née Sophie Auguste Fredericke von Anhalt-Zerbst]
(b Stettin [now Szczecin], 21 April/May 2, 1729; d Tsarskoye Selo, 6/Nov 17, 1796). Empress of Russia. She acceded in 1762 following a palace coup against her husband Peter III, and became known as ‘Catherine the Great’. Continuing the policy of her predecessors, the empresses Anna (reigned 1730–40) and Elizabeth (1741–61), she maintained a court opera theatre staffed by Italians, personally patronizing Cimarosa, Paisiello, Galuppi and Sarti, as well as her special favourite, the italianized Spaniard Martín y Soler. She also patronized comic opera in the vernacular and encouraged native talent to apply itself to this genre. Among the talents she nurtured was her own very modest one as a dramatist, which she exercised, as she put it to a friend, for the sake of relaxation and distraction from affairs of state. With the assistance of two literary secretaries, Ivan Yelagin and Alexander Khrapovitsky, she wrote three volumes of Russian plays and a fourth in French....