Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Birthday: Galina Vishnevskaya

"Líu's Death Scene"
Turandot (Puccini)
w/Franco Corelli & Birgit Nilsson
Galina Pavlovna Vishnevskaya (Russian: Гали́на Па́вловна Вишне́вская) (born October 25, 1926) is a Russian soprano opera singer and recitalist who was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1966. Vishnevskaya was born in Leningrad. She made her professional stage debut in 1944 singing operetta. After a year studying with Vera Nikolayevna Garina, she won a competition held by the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow (with Rachmaninoff's song "O, Do Not Grieve" and Verdi's aria "O patria mia" from Aida) in 1952. The next year, she became a member of the Bolshoi Theatre. She remained a member of the Bolshoi company for 22 years. She gave unforgettable interpretations of more than 30 roles in Russian and Western European operas. Following a brilliant debut as Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene

"Puskay pogibnu ya"
Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)
Onegin, she went on to perform, among others, the title role in Verdi’s Aida, Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata, the title role in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Natasha Rostova in Prokofiev’s War and Peace, Katarina in the 1957 world premiere of Shebalin’s The Taming of the Shrew, Lisa in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Kupava in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snowmaiden, and Marfa in his The Tsar’s Bride. On May 9, 1960 she made her first appearance in Sarajevo at the National Theatre, as Aida. In 1961, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Aida; the following year she made her debut at the Royal Opera House with the same role. For her La Scala debut in 1964, she sang Liù in Turandot, opposite Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli. In addition to the roles in the Russian operatic repertoire, Vishnevskaya has also sung roles such as Violetta, Tosca, Cio-cio-san, Leonore, and Cherubino. Benjamin Britten wrote the

"Vocalise" Op.34, No. 14
soprano role in his War Requiem (completed 1962) especially for her. She also sang Polina in the first Russian production Prokofiev’s The Gambler in 1974, performed Poulenc’s mono-opera La voix humaine in 1965, and starred in the film version of Shostakovich’s opera Katerina Izmailova in 1966. Vishnevskaya was married to the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich from 1955 until his death in 2007; they performed together regularly (he on piano or on the podium). Both she and Rostropovich were friends of Dmitri Shostakovich, and they made an electrifying recording of his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk for EMI. During the Soviet regime Galina Vishnevskaya opposed the authorities. According to Robert Conquest, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn stayed at their dacha from 1968 while writing much of The Gulag Archipelago. For that reason,

"Act 2, Finale" Tosca (Puccini)
among others, the couple was exposed to particular attention and pressure from the intelligence service of the USSR. In 1974 Galina Vishnevskaya and Mstislav Rostropovitch left the Soviet Union and in 1978 they were deprived of Soviet citizenship. They first settled in the United States and later lived in France and Great Britain. Galina Vishnevskaya starred in the greatest opera theaters of the world, including Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, Opera de Paris, Teatro alla Scala and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, performing with the most celebrated masters of opera and the theatrical arts. In 1982, the soprano bade farewell to the opera stage, in Paris, as Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. In 1987, she stage directed Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride in Washington, D.C. She sang the part of Marina in a renowned

"Songs and Dances of Death"
(Mussorgsky, orchestrated by Shostakovich)
recording of Boris Godunov, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, with co-soloists Nicolai Ghiaurov, Martti Talvela, Ludwig Spiess and Alexei Maslennikov, and in 1989 performed the same role in the film version directed by Andrzei Zulawsky, with the score conducted by Mstislav Rostropovitch. During the period in which she was forced to live abroad, Galina Vishnevskaya made a complete recording of Prokofiev’s War and Peace and recorded five discs of romances by Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Mussorgsky, Borodin and Tchaikovsky. Galina Vishnevskaya’s whole life and creative work have been aimed at renewing and glorifying Russian opera traditions. At the beginning of the 1990s, in the wake of perestroika, she and Mstislav Rostropovitch were given back their

"Ritorna vincitor" Aida (Verdi)
Russian citizenship. Returning to Russia, she became an honorary professor of the Moscow Conservatory. She described her life in the book Galina: A Russian Story, the English version of which was published in 1984, with the Russian version following in 1991. Galina Vishnevskaya has received an honorary doctorate of arts from numerous universities. For many years she has worked with young people in the arts, giving master classes throughout the world and chairing the juries of leading international competitions. She is President of the All-Russia Fair of Singers in Yekaterinburg. The long-awaited opening of the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre

"Con onor muore"
Madama Butterfly (Puccini)
[sung in Russian]
took place in Moscow on September 1, 2002. At the Centre, the great diva shares her accumulated experience and unique knowledge with talented young singers in order that they may proudly represent the Russian school of singing on the international operatic stage. In 2006, she was featured in Alexander Sokurov's documentary Elegy of a life: Rostropovich, Vishnevskaya. In 2007, she starred in his film Aleksandra, playing the role of a grandmother coming to see her grandson in the Second Chechen War. The film premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Galina Vishnevskaya has received many prestigious awards for her contributions to the art of music: the Medal for the Defense of Leningrad (1943), the Order of Lenin (1971), the Diamond Medal of Paris, the Order for Services to Fatherland in the third degree (1996) and the Order for Services to Fatherland in the second degree (2006). She is also a Grand Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters (1982), a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour (1983) and an Honorary Citizen of Kronshtadt (1996). The diva made many recordings, including Eugene Onegin

"Casta diva" Norma (Bellini)
(1956 and 1970), Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death (1961 and 1976), Britten's War Requiem (with Sir Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, conducted by the composer; 1963), The Poet's Echo (1968), Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov (1970 and 1987), Puccini's Tosca (1976), Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades (with Regina Resnik, 1976), Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1978), Tchaikovsky's Iolanta (with Nicolai Gedda, 1984), and Prokofiev's War and Peace (1986). Galina and her late husband have two daughters and six grandchildren. The daughters have followed in the path of their parents and have become distinguished musicians. The older one, Olga, plays the cello and instructs. She is married to French businessman Olaf Geran-Germess and they have two sons - Oleg and Mstislav. The younger daughter, Elena, is a pianist and General Director of the International Music Festival in Evian (France). She married the Italian publisher Stefano Tartini and they have four children - Ivan, Sergey, Anastasia and Alexander. [Source, Source]

More photos of the soprano with famous friends after the jump.

An early promotional photo

After a performance with Maria Callas

The star diva during the 1970s

Husband Mstislav in the backseat, composer Benjamin Britten driving
and tenor Peter Pears looks on during a joy ride. 

With composer Dmitri Shostakovich

Galina and late husband Mstislav Rostropovich

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