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Galina Vishnevskaya (1926 - 2012)

The daughter of an army officer and a Polish gypsy, Vishnevskaya was brought up in poverty by her grandmother after her father, an alcoholic, tried to kill her mother with an axe. When she was ten she was given a record of music from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin which completely captivated her: ‘I was in a fever for days’, she later recalled. As a child she displayed vocal talent, studying at the Rimsky- Korsakov School of Music and then privately with Vera Nikolayevna.

Following the lifting of the siege of Leningrad in 1944 Vishnevskaya auditioned successfully for the Leningrad District Operetta Theatre and was part of a troupe that entertained Russian troops. Around this time she was married briefly to a young alcoholic sailor, Georgi Vishnevsky, whose name she took professionally and by whom she had a child who died shortly after birth; she later married the founder of the Leningrad Operetta Theatre, Mark Rubin. In 1950 she took the part of Polenka in the operetta Kholopka by Strelnikov and after singing with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, decided upon an operatic career.




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