Galina Vishnevskaya, born on Oct. 25, 1926, is not one of most recognized singers of the 20th century, though she was certainly well-recognized in the USSR.
Vishnevskaya was born in Leningrad and got started singing operetta when she was barely 18 years old.
She became a member of Bolshoi Theater in 1953, at the age of 27.
While the greater part of her career took place in the USSR, she did have a solid international career, debuting in Finland in 1957, the Met in 1961, and the Royal Opera House in 1962. She appeared at La Scala in 1964, alongside Franco Corelli and Birgit Nilsson.
Britten wrote the War Requiem for her and while she didn’t make it to the first performance due to restrictions from the USSR, she did make the first recording of the work.
She performed extensively with her husband, renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who she married in 1955.
She also appeared in Alexander Sokurov’s “Alexandra.”
She received a plethora of awards throughout her career including the Order of Lenin, Medal “For the Defense of Leningrad,” Honoured Artists of RSFSR, People’s Artist of RSFSR, Commander of the Legion of Honour, and even Best Actress from the Russian Guild of Film Critics.
She passed away at age 86 in Moscow.
She was renowned as an interpreter of Tatyana in “Eugene Onegin,” the opera with which she made her Finnish National Opera and also closed out her stage career in Paris in 1982. She also regularly performed the role of Aida in Verdi’s masterwork, making her Met Opera, Royal Opera, and Sarajevo debuts with the opera.
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Watch and Listen
Here is a recital featuring the soprano and Rostropovich.
And here is a recording of “Tosca.”