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Grigory Zaslavsky

8 December 2004

Last weekend the Mariinsky Orchestra led by Valery Gerghiyev opened a Russkij Festival with a concert held at the nearly 3,000-seat Auditorium Hall (also known as the Music Park) built two years ago. Festival posters can be seen plastered just about everywhere across the city, even on city buses. Just a day before Gerghiyev took the stage and, as musicians say, for the sake of tact, young singers from the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre actually opened the whole event at the Russian Ambassador’s official residence at Villa Abamelec.

Galina Vishnevskaya made Italy her first destination when the Soviet authorities let her leave the country in the late-1950s. She has since been widely admired there with people trusting her sarcastic wit and touting her Opera Centre as a prime organizer of this grand festival. One just can’t help admiring her regal gait, the way she reacts to everything being said, even en passant, the way she uses every opportunity to give a precious tip to her students who stand out so vividly from among their peers from other Russian opera schools, their singing always so clear and easily discernible at all times.

There were five of them coming to Rome, most of them Vishnevskaya Centre graduates: Yuri Baranov, Oksana Lesnichaya, Oksana Korniyevskaya, Samir Dzhafarov and Pavel Paremuzov, all boasting good and strong voices. During a pre-concert rehearsal they all fanned out to the faraway corners of the hall only to come together the next moment singing in chorus sending shudders through the thick walls of the medieval villa. What was even more important than the sheer strength of their voices however, was that their voices and their very manner of singing was so dramatically saturated and their singing so artistic with so much attention to detail making the characters stand out so vividly, whether it was the old Countess from The Queen of Spades or Rigoletto, or Antonida from Ivan Susanin.

In the finale they performed a quartet from Rigoletto whose premiere is scheduled in Moscow in the coming days.

Buoyed by their performance, Vishnevskaya’s disciples went for a night stroll across thee city. By 2 a.m. they had finally reached Piazza Navona, someone started to sing, the others joined in singing the very same quartet, their powerful voices filling the squar. Late night tourists provided an improvised audience, the ubiquitous Japanese tourists were all there taking photos with the whole thing ending with a fresh new round of deafening applause.