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Opera Soprano, Soviet Dissident Galina Vishnevskaya Dies

Galina Vishnevskaya
Galina Vishnevskaya, the famed Russian Opera singer, has died at 86. Photographer: Louis Melancon via Bloomberg

Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, a former Soviet dissident and widow of the cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, has died in Moscow, her opera center said in a statement today. She was 86.

Vishnevskaya joined Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater in 1952 and performed more than 30 soprano roles in Russian and Western operas. The opera center didn’t identify the cause of her death.

In 1974, Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich were forced into exile for their principled stance against the Soviet regime, which renounced their citizenship in 1978.

After they defended Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his battle with Soviet authorities, Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich became recognized as a force for human rights during the waning years of the Cold War. They lived in France and the U.S.

Vishnevskaya returned to Russia in the early 1990s and was named an honorary professor at the Moscow Conservatory. In 2002 the singer opened her opera center in Moscow where she taught young performers.

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov paid more than 36 million pounds (then about $73 million) for Rostropovich and Vishevskaya’s art collection in 2007 and donated it to the government.

The funeral will take place on Dec. 14 at Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery, preceded by a service at the Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow, according to the opera center.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ksenia Galouchko in Moscow at kgalouchko1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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