In 1878 he graduated from the Marine Cadet Corps in St. Petersburg, served in the Fleet, and retired in 1881. Studied at the Petersburg Conservatory under V.M. Samus, studied piano under I.P. Pryanishnikova and G. Everardi. Improved in Italy under F. Lamperti and E. de Roxas.
In 1882 he made his debut in Naples and toured through West Europe and South Africa until 1887. In 1887-1904 and in 1907 he was a soloist at the Mariinsky Theatre, debuting in the roles of Radames in Aida by G. Verdi, Faust in the same-name opera by Ch. Gunaud, and Raul in Les Huguenots by D. Meyerbeer. In the interval period he toured through Russia, acted in the Moscow Bolshoy Theatre, and led his own non-repertoire company in Nizhny Novgorod and Tbilisi.
In 1910-15 he was a soloist, art director, and opera troupe director of the Petersburg People's House of Theatre, where he staged a number of opera plays competing with plays at the Mariinsky Theatre.
He was the first actor to play a number of opera roles, including that of Hermann (prepared under the guidance of the author) and Vaudemont (The Queen of Spades and Iolanthe by P.I. Tchaikovsky), and Vladimir Dubrovsky and Paolo (Dubrovsky and Francesca da Rimini by E.F. Napravnik).
Thanks to the tenacity of his voice, Figner managed to achieve a tone which to match his image, and used it in combination with thoughtful and expressive acting to create individual character. He achieved fame with the role of Lensky (Eugine Onegin by Tchaikovsky).
Among his best roles are: Alfred, Loengreen, Werter, Jose, and Othello. He translated foreign operatic librettos to Russian. In 1917 he moved to Ukraine, and from 1918 taught at the Kiev Conservatory.
His second wife Medea (née Mei, 1859-1952) created Tchaikovsky's Lisa (The Queen of Spades) and Iolanta.
|Figner||Am Leve Toi Soliel||Romeo||1902||3.01|
|Nikolay & Mei Figner||French Duet||Dubrovsky||1902||2.17|