MOSCOW, December 11 (RIA Novosti) – Renowned Russian opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya passed away on Tuesday at the age of 86, the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Center press service said.
Vishnevskaya, a former star soprano at the Bolshoi Theater, and her late husband, renowned conductor and cello player Mstislav Rostropovich, gained global recognition for their art. Their foreign careers began after they were expelled from the Soviet Union for supporting dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn* in 1974.
Born in 1926, Vishnevskaya began her opera career in the Leningrad (former St. Petersburg) Region opera and ballet theater in 1944, and joined the Bolshoi Theater of Moscow shortly afterward. She soon became the Bolshoi prima.
In 1955, Vishnevskaya married Rostropovich four days after their first meeting. Rostropovich, who died in 2007, was her third husband. During their stay abroad, both musicians were stripped of Soviet citizenship and all state awards for their assistance to disabled Russian emigres, veterans of World War I. But in 1990, the couple were allowed return to their homeland.
In 2002, Vishnevskaya became head of a newly built Opera Center in downtown Moscow. Since 2006, she had chaired the jury of a singing competition named in her honor: the Vishnevskaya Open International Competition of Opera Singers. She was also head of the Russian Singers’ Fair in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich had been expelled from the Soviet Union for supporting dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov.