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MOSCOW, December 13 (Itar-Tass) — A farewell ceremony for the deceased Russian opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya lasted in her Centre of Opera Singing in Moscow for the whole day on Thursday.
The tragic news about the singer’s death on December 11 spread quickly in Russia and abroad. Vishnevskaya called Russian Maria Callas was known and loved everywhere.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first to pay his last respects to Vishnevskaya. Other officials and celebrities who came to say the last good-bye included Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s Chief Sanitary Doctor Gennady Onishchenko, the Russian prime minister’s wife Svetlana Medvedeva, Sergei Kapkov, the head of the Moscow culture department, Boshoi’s ballet dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, Alexander Sokolov, the rector of the Moscow Conservatoire, famous conductor Vladimir Minin, Mikhail Shvydkoi, the Russian president’s special envoy for international cultural cooperation, Natalya Solzhenitsyna, the widow of late Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Anatoly Iksanov, the general director of the Bolshoi Theatre, Naina Yeltsina, the widow of Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko; singers Makvala Kasrashvili and Irina Bogacheva, Stage Director Dmitry Bertman, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia Polad Byulbyul ogly as well as Vishnevskaya’s pupils, fans and admirers.
Galina Vishnevskaya was a true representative of Russian intelligentsia. “She gave all her energy and soul to art and other people. Our task is to continue her cause,” Sergei Kapkov, the head of the Moscow culture department, said at the farewell ceremony.
“Those who are present here today have gathered to say the last good-bye not only to Galina Vishnevskaya but to the entire era and the theatre in which the star of her talent used to shine. Galina Vishnevskaya left the Center of Opera Singing to us set up to share her knowledge and rich experience with young talents. The bar of her mastery was very high. Vishnevskaya never obeyed the system that exerted pressure on her. She always marched through life with her head raised high,” Kapkov told journalists.
Sergei Stadler, a world famous violinist from St. Petersburg, said that the departure of such great people always symbolized the end of an era. “Galina Vishnevskaya and her husband, the world famous musician Mstislav Rostropovich, was a star couple, the symbol of an era, of a system and struggle against it,” Stadler said.
Stage Director Ivan Popovski described Vishnevskaya’s death as an irretrievable loss. “Galina Vishnevskaya was the guardian of lofty traditions of theatre who defended great music and the synthesis of harmony,” Popovski stressed.
Natalya Solzhenitsyna said that Vishnevskaya, the People’s Artist of the USSR, was a unique personality and a great person.
“We should pray that Russia doesn’t get impoverished and that the Lord sends us such great people without whom we are going to grow small from time to time,” Solzhenitsyna went on to say. She added that Galina Vishnevskaya was passionate and over talented. “She was a strong and honest person who thought about lofty things rather than herself,” Solzhenitsyna emphasized.
Natalya Solzhenitsyna said that Vishnevskaya’s departure was a great “personal loss” for her.
“Our friendship started 43 years ago. These people are like our relatives. This family is dear to us not abstractly but in real terms. Our sons were born under Slava’s and Galya’s roof. It was very hard for us to part with Slava. It’s no less hard to be saying good-bye to Galya. She was part of our life. So we are crying about ourselves rather than her. Her life has reached the ocean of eternity while we remain,” Solzhenitsyna said.
The Soviet authorities started persecuting Galina Vishnevskaya and her husband, conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, since the late 1960s. However, the family didn’t hesitate to give shelter to writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn in their country-house. In retaliation, the authorities cancelled a number of their guest concerts and recordings at the radio. Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich were banned from travelling abroad on guest tours. Finally, the family left for the United States in 1974. Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich were stripped of Soviet citizenship four years later for their human rights activities.
Galina Vishnevskaya died in Moscow on December 11 at the age of 86.
“She was ill. She didn’t’ feel well. At one moment she understood that death was near and it was time for her to start getting ready for her departure, and so she did,” Vishnevskaya’s daughter Olga Rostropovich said. She and her sister Elena Rostropovich said that their mother had died in her country-house. “She died on our hands in her favorite room. We held her hand until her last breath. She was listening to Orthodox music. She was praying and took communion. She was full of love and she left this world surrounded by love. She was happy. She left to join our father,” Vishnevskaya’s daughters said.
On December 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on decoration of Galina Vishnevskaya with the “For Merits to the Fatherland” Order which, regrettably, she didn’t live to see. Olga and Elena Rostropovich received their mother’s award on December 12.
Galina Vishnevskaya will be buried at the Novodevichye cemetery next to her husband Mstislav Rostropovich on December 14.