The mezzo-soprano Renata Babak was born in Kharkov, Ukraine on 4 February 1934. She studied in Leningrad at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory and became a soloist at the Leningrad Opera. Admired by critics, Babak was already an international star when, sick of interferences in her career by the KGB, she defected to Canada in 1973 whilst performing with the Bolshoi at La Scala Milan. After hiding for two years, she moved to the USA, making her US début at a packed Carnegie Hall in 1975 and becoming a US citizen in 1993.
Renata Babak died from pancreatic cancer on 31 December 2003 at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, aged sixty-nine.