Galina Vishnevskaya, 1926-2012

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The great Russian singer Galina Vishnevskaya has died, the New York Times reports. The widow of cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich died Monday in Moscow at the age of 86.

She performed for 23 years at the Bolshoi and also spent some time at the Met. Tagged as "ideological renegades," Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya were stripped of their citizenship by the Soviet government. The couple had allowed Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to live in their country home in the late '60s and early '70s.

Some Philadelphians may remember when she and Rostropovich had a presence at the Curtis Institute of Music - him leading the orchestra, and she conducting master classes. Vishnevskaya was a visiting voice teacher for the school from 1991 to 1997.

Here's a piece about one of their Curtis visits, in 1989.

In 1992, she coached Curtis students in a concert performance of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. One of the students who conducted the performance attended all of her coachings over a two-week residency, and, in Overtones, the Curtis magazine, said:

"Observing first-hand the greatest Russian diva was unforgettable. She has such a magnificent stage presence and is a brilliant actress. She knows exactly how to bring the characters alive and was unsurpassed when it came to working with the singers and achieving specific vocal results and portraying vivid characterizations. For me, it was inspiring to see how passionate she is about her art and how she demands 100 percent of herself and others. It showed me what is possible and gave me a goal to strive for."

The conducting student wasn't specific about his goal, but today he seems to be well on his way. The quote is from Alan Gilbert, now music director of the New York Philharmonic.

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