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Music for a prima donna

Irina Muravieva

28 March 2016

This year Olga Rostropovich  dedicated the Mstislav Rostropovich Festival to the 90th birthday anniversary celebrations of Galina Vishnevskaya

The Seventh International Mstislav Rostropovich Festival opened with a performance at the Grand Hall of the Conservatoire of Mozart’s Requiem, one of Vishnevskaya’s and Rostropovich’s favourite works. The Requiem Mass was performed by the Russian National Orchestra and the Yurlov Choir directed by Maestro Massimo Zanetti with a star-studded cast of operatic soloists. Olga Rostropovich, the artistic director of the Festival told the readers of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta about the Festival events, celebrating Galina Vishnevskaya’s 90th birthday

The Festival opened with the Mozart Requiem, a work of eternal and symbolic significance, with a cast of soloists of a calibre worthy of Salzburg: Albina  Shagimuratova, Daniela Barcellona, Ramon Vargas, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo…


Olga Rostropovich:  I particularly wanted this Requiem to be performed for Mother’s 90th birthday celebrations. In the year she passed away, we programmed the Verdi Requiem, and now it’s the turn of Mozart. I invited the Italian conductor Massimo Zanetti, whom I heard at “La Scala”; he is a wonderful musician and until now has never performed in Russia. I wanted him to be discovered by our audiences.

Also from Italy the famous orchestra, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino performed under its principal conductor Zubin Mehta. Other of Europe’s most renowned orchestras hosted at this year’s festival included the London Philharmonic and Orchestre Philhatmonique de Radio France.

How do you manage to preserve such  high standards at the festival, with an array of elite performers?

 Olga RostropovichFor me there can be no question of compromise; if one is to put on a festival with  the names Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya, then it must be done to the highest level. As Mother always said to me: «Olya do it well,  or otherwise don’t do it all.» After all, people came to listen to their concerts with such love; and indeed they were very emotional events, where one felt touched by inspiration. I remember, as a little girl listening to their concerts, and remember how they affected me, how my inner world was deeply touched. And today I would like there to be a similar atmosphere at our festival concerts, where audiences  are given the opportunity to hear  that which they most probably cannot hear anywhere else in Moscow.

Nevertheless such projects involve enormous expense. Has the Festival acquired a circle of sponsors?

Olga Rostropovich: No it hasn’t. We receive help and  support from the Government of Moscow for which we are truly grateful . But it’s no secret  that today funding is diminishing, and in addition we  receive our funds in  rubles, while we pay our artists in euros. Furthermore, we take pride in the good conditions we offer to the musicians we host, paying a good fee and putting them up in good hotels. It’s important to us that they leave the festival, ready to tell the world how brilliantly our festival is organised,  what beautiful halls we have, what a wonderful country this is, how hospitable its people are. But the crisis of course has had its consequence . We had to cancel one of the concerts of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

This year the Festival concerts will also take place in towns that were connected with the name of Galina Vishnevskaya: in St Petersburg and Kronstadt .

Olga Rostropovich: The Rostropovich Festival  has been several times to St Petersburg. And this year we have added Kronstadt, where the festival  «baton» will be relayed to a team of soloists from the Vishenskaya Opera Centre. It would have been impossible  to exclude from the festival programme Vishnevskaya’s former students and the young singers from the Opera Centre, which she founded in 2002 and which became the focus of  her life. So all of us, the management, the orchestra of the Opera Centre and its soloists will be going to Krondstadt,  the town where as a young girl Galina started her music studies, and nearby St Petersburg where she lived through the terrible years of the siege, where she extinguished incendary bombs with other teenage girls from the local Air Defence Unit. My Mother was made an honorary citizen of Krondstadt, and she went there often with her students. We would like this tradition to be continued.

What other plans do you have during the Galina Vishnevskaya 90th anniversary year?

Olga Rostropovich The bi-annual Galina Vishnevskaya Opera singing competition will also take place this year, and in addition we are organising  an Opera Festival named after Galina Vishnevskaya in Sochi. And a wonderful exhibition dedicated to her Art will open on 25th October – my Mother’s birthday- at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. And  on November 8th a concert is planned, featuring international stars on the renowned stage of the Bolshoi Theatre.

Can you describe your ideas for the Opera Festival at Sochi?

Olga Rostropovich We decided to found the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Festival, since it seemed an anomaly that until now no opera festival  has existed in such an enormous  country as Russia, while in Europe you have several such festivals, as  in Salzburg and Bayreuth. For the creation of the Opera Festival we chose Sochi, a lovely town with a wonderful climate and  amazing natural beauty, with an existing infra-structure, which means that the festival  can arouse interest world-wide.   We plan to hold the First Opera Festival here in  September, and to  programme the Vishnevskaya Opera Centre’s best productions –  Iolanta and Rigoletto. We have invited world famous opera singers to perform together with our young singers in these operas.

You are opening an Opera Festival to celebrate this anniversary year of Galina Vishnevskaya. And what did Rostropovich prepare for Galina Pavlovna’s  celebrations during their lifetime?  In what manner did he congratulate her?

Olga Rostropovich : One  could write volumes about this. He  always started preparing  quite early, and it all acquired an incredibly romantic form. He did not merely spoil Mother, but once he had put her on a pedestal, she  never descended from it. For him Mother was the very embodiment of  beauty, his ideal in the real meaning of the word. Life together was always interesting for them. They would speak each day for hours on end,  if necessary only on the telephone. And they both knew that whatever happened, they could rely on each other for all their lives. Whatever happened, this was the closest, most beloved person for you, your protection. And it was very important in your life to know that you had such a person so close to you, somebody who would never betray you. That is what love is about, love in its ideal sense.