On Friday, the celebrated Russian opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya, who died on 11 December at the age of 86, was buried in Moscow. The burial ceremony began at 13.00 MSK at Novodevichy Cemetery. Vishnevskaya’s grave is near that of her husband, the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. By Orthodox tradition, before the funeral, the farewell ceremony was in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Before she died, the singer wanted to donate to the cathedral a treasured icon of St Nicholas the Wonderworker, but she didn’t do it. On the day of the farewell ceremony, her daughters Olga and Yelena did it for her.
Well-known opera singer Lyubov Kazkarnovskaya said, “The legendary couple of Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich will be remembered for generations as a symbol of devotion to Art. A fabulous generation, which knew how to serve Music and Theatre, and which knew the price of every single note, is leaving. She lived at the limit of love for her art”. Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya set the bar high, not only in their art, but also in their social life. In the 1970s, without hesitation, although they understood that they’d pay a price for it, they supported writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, when the authorities were harassing him. Solzhenitsyn’s widow Natalya said, “I highly value the close friendship between our families and I’ll always be grateful to Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya, as they helped Aleksandr in the most difficult period of his life”.
In their irksome exile, Vishneskaya wrote a book entitled Galina. She said, “I found salvation in it. I needed to tell people what happened to us and why”. The singer turned out to be an excellent storyteller. In later life, she also became known as a brilliant dramatic actress; she played the main role in the film Aleksandra by Aleksandr Sokurov. She played a common middle-aged Russian woman, who came to visit her grandson, who was an officer who serving in Chechnya. The film’s producer, Andrei Sigle, recalled, “She didn’t hesitate to go on location shooting, even though it was still a rather dangerous time there. It was also very hot, 56 degrees (133 degrees Fahrenheit), and it was very windy. However, she was very strong and set an example for us”.
The renowned composer Rodion Shchedrin came to Moscow to celebrate his birthday, but unfortunately faced this great loss, saying, “To me, Galina Pavlovna’s passing is a personal loss as we were very close friends throughout our lives. It’s a very bitter loss. Like the poet Voznesensky said, ‘We’re leaving, and this edict is everlasting’”. The Centre of Opera Signing, established by Vishnevskaya in Moscow ten years ago, has already brought up many talented singers. One of them was Badri Maisuradze, soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre, who said, “The generations of singers who were guided by her and Mstislav Rostropovich will never forget them. They’ll always be remembered”.
14 December 2012
Voice of Russia World Service