Olga Rostropovich, the daughter of legendary cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and singer Galina Vishnevskaya, spoke to Radio VR about her late mother, family life in New York, and cultural life in Moscow, which she calls extraordinary and incredible.
Olga, you are in charge of the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Center. And I understand October 25th, is the birthday of your mother Galina Vishnevskaya, is a big date for you. What are you planning to do on this date?
Olga Rostropovich: It is always a big date for us. And I must say that ever since my mother, Galina Vishnevskaya, created this opera center, now going into its 12th year, she celebrated every single birthday here at the opera center. So, we are keeping this tradition. Since my mother passed away two years ago, I have stepped up as director of the opera center. I have decided that every year on my mother’s birthday we are going to give a new production of a performance and carry on her legacy.
Of course, for us it’s a bit difficult, because we are not a theatre, we are a school, we have students and we do all the production by ourselves with our own means. But I think it is the best present we can possibly give to my mother, in honor of her memory as a great singer and great person who created this opera center.
What are you planning to do this year?
Olga Rostropovich: This year we have decided to do a new production of Pagliacci, because that’s probably the only opera which is not produced in Moscow. I’ve invited an Italian conductor, because I think it will be very good for our students to work on their Italian repertoire with wonderful Italian conductor, Gianluca Marciano. It is extremely difficult vocally. And also, I have to say that we are going to follow the composer’s idea and of libretto, we don’t want to transform it into some kind of 21st century imposter.
You’ve taken the words out of my mouth, because I wanted to ask you whether you experiment and change operas, a typical trend in a lot of theaters today?
Olga Rostropovich: I think it is unnecessary. I was watching some of Rossini’s operas and it is amazing, because most of them are staged with briefcases and businessmen. Their voices were okay, but I was uncomfortable. Thus it occurred to me that I felt this way because there was no connection between the music and what was happening visually on stage.
Apart from the opera center, what else do you do?
Olga Rostropovich: I run the Rostropovich Festival in Moscow, one in Baku and one in Orenburg. In addition to that I also manage the Rostropovich Foundation, where we help young musicians excel.
How old are we talking?
Olga Rostropovich: From 8-10 years old and to 19-20. Right now we have 18 kids receiving scholarships.
So, you travel across the country and select these kids?
Olga Rostropovich: Yes, but I don’t go looking for them. What happens is just the opposite. They send us CDs and DVDs, the committee listens to them and the ones that we choose, they come and play, and then, based on their needs in life, we support them with money. Also, the students who want our scholarships, they cannot work with any other foundations. We help kids who really need support, those who do not have instruments or who live somewhere very far away without access to good teachers.
You’ve mentioned three Rostropovich Festivals, what is the difference between the three of them and why are they staged in three different cities? Does that mean that you bring different musicians to each of them?
Olga Rostropovich: Different musicians, different programs in different times of the year. Everything is completely different in each. In Baku, for example, the city where my father was born, in 2007 when my father passed away, they asked us to start the Rostropovich Festival. And with the help and support of the Aliyev Foundation we have managed to bring the festival to an extraordinary level in just 8 years. We already have had Zubin Mehta come here to play, we’ve had the English Chamber Orchestra came a few times, and we’ve had Pinchas Zukerman.The Moscow festival is a lot younger than the one in Baku, but this year, for example, we are hosting Zubin Mehta, Antonio Pappano’ Santa Cecilia, and Yuri Temirkanov. Next year we are doing a big project with LSO and Vladimir Jurowski. They are coming for two concerts and they were here two years ago.
Do you plan to expand the to other cities?
Olga Rostropovich: It is a question of finances, of course. Now it’s a bit difficult to say, because we have our financing in Moscow and Baku. If anybody wants to give us financing, we will do it any country of the world.
How competitive is opera today? How competitive is it for somebody who studies at your center?
Olga Rostropovich: Some students don’t have to wait until they graduate, because we have all these projects and performances which happen at least four times a month. And people who come and visit our center, they hear our students, get interested and hire them for some productions.
We also have a project called Operatic Young Artists Program. We take our artists and bring them to affiliated programs, like Plácido Domingo Academy. We are working with the Metropolitan Opera Younger Artists Program, Covent Garden Younger Artists Program. So, they have access to that exposure.
Also, in 2006, my mother established the international Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Competition for opera singers. We have a very diverse jury, it’s not only singers, but also agents, managers, casting directors of major opera theaters. And even if some singers don’t win or fail to go to the third round, if they have a specific voice and specific talent for certain roles, they will be hired.
How do you divide your time between Moscow and other places where you live?
Olga Rostropovich: It is a problem really. My children were born in the US, one son goes to college in NY, the other son is going to college in Paris. So, every free moment I have, I’m trying to go and visit them. Mostly we meet in NY where my home is. I’ve lived there for 40 years.
How do you compare Moscow with all the other capitals and places where you live?
Olga Rostropovich: The cultural life is quite extraordinary. I mean, it is absolutely incredible, because in one day you have so many really wonderful and interesting concerts and theatre plays, you don’t even know what to choose. Often times I just would like to be in two different places. To me, that’s what is very interesting – the intensity and quality of cultural life here in Moscow.