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Galina: A Russian Story

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Galina: A Russian Story [Paperback]

Galina Vishnevskaya , Guy Daniels
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 21, 1985 0156343207 978-0156343206 1
This autobiography is a luminous portrait of a Soviet artist, richly woven against the backdrop of Soviet History. Translated by Guy Daniels.

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Galina: A Russian Story + The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States
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Language Notes

Text: English, Russian (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Galina Pavlovna Vishnevskaya (born 25 October 1926) is a Russian soprano opera singer and recitalist who was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1966.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 1 edition (October 21, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156343207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156343206
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Everything was backwards..." August 4, 2002
"...We were actors in real life and human beings on the stage."

Thus spake Galina Vishnevskaya, in interviews she and her husband, Mstislav ("Slava") Rostropovich, gave in Paris in 1983, captured in a companion book ("Russia, Music, and Liberty: Conversations with Claude Samuel.") to this one. The quotation barely begins to suggest the Kafkaesque world in which they lived, when they were musical artists of the highest order in the Soviet Union.

Vishnevskaya was a "prima donna assoluta" at the Bolshoi Opera during her prime, arguably the finest Russian soprano of all time. And, as her prime overlapped those of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, one can only wonder what her international reputation might have been had her career been entirely in the west; the first two-thirds (and best) part of it was largely away from the gaze of the international music community.

This is, as she subtitles it, her "Russian story" covering her life up to the final hours in 1976 when she left the Soviet Union, eventually (two years later) as an exile. And it almost ended before it ever started.

Born in poverty to parents who abandoned her to her grandmother, she possessed an incredible voice as a child. Largely self-taught, and then - at age sixteen - improperly taught - she didn't learn proper voice technique until after she had established a beginning career in operetta. Then she contracted TB, and the doctor caring for her offered that the only cure - which she refused - was to collapse the infected lung. It was only by mortgaging her future singing fees for black-market purchase of scarce antibiotics that she recovered.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic and very informative July 27, 2000
By A Customer
I read this book the first time 10 years ago and recently again. At the time I didn't know too much about russian music or history and I credit this book much of the knowledge I have of these subjects aw well as the russian mentality. I am now a prefessional musician who often has heard and read conflicting ideas about Prokoviev and Shostakovich's political roles. Galina, who knew very well Shostakovich's situation is giving us a first hand testimony.I listen to Shostakovich's music differently now. Her internal conflicts are also vividly but not overly described. Knowing very closely Moscow's intelligentia (Solsjenitsyn, Sacharov a.o.)of the 60's, we can gather extremely interesting facts of these people. Her biography is not too self-centered. What an interesting life she has had as a prima donna opera singer and being Rostopovich's wife. She is also very honest about herself, which I appreciate.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the Best Operatic Autobiography Ever August 9, 2007
Of all the singer's biographies I've read (which is plenty!) this remains at the top of the heap. It is a journey that could have only come from the pen of Vishnevskaya and, unlike so many autobiographies which eventually turn into a "And then I sang _____, and then I sang at the White House, and then I . . . " Galina reads almost like a novel. Her description of the Soviet Union during the war years is positively chilling. The road she took to success, punctuated by hardships followed by tragedies is never less than enthralling. How many biographies can truly be called "page turners?" Well, this is one!

The insights she gives into the Soviet system, the role and treatment of artists by the government, her personal views on politicians, singers, composers all come off with rare candor that almost caused me to blush.

Feeling mezzo soprano Elena Obratzsova had been been a betrayer, she humiliated the young singer in public shouting out "Judas" writing of Obratzsova's exit, "Like a snake with a broken spine, she crawled past the amazed Americans, who stood aside to let her pass." Ouch!

My favorite passage from the book succinctly, and pointedly paints the most vivid picture of the Soviet system:

In this vast, monstrous theater, with our faces twisted by
underground jargon, we Soviets wriggle and squirm for one
another. We are actors by compulsion, not by calling, in an
amateur theater run by no one. And all our lives we perform our
endless, pathetic comedy. There are no spectators, only
participants. Nor is there a script, only improvisation. And
knowing neither plot nor denoument, we act.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Whether or not one is a fan of opera, this will prove to be an enlightening, fascinating read.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fierceness requited... November 23, 2002
Vishnevskaya's reputation for forthrightness AND the sub-title she chooses here --A Russian Story-- indicate strong intentions for this book. Not 'MY Russian Story', but 'A Russian Story', as she tells an epic Russian story, honoring with a severe truth the Russia of sorrows of which her story forms a unique part. This is no prima donna's idle tableau of a curtained career. Vishnevskaya's art comes of suffering, & she doesn't head down that road. She divulges her art generously, but her attitude never self serves. Her aim is always higher - she's interested to say not only what HAPPENED in Soviet life, but what WAS. and WHO!--- Vishnevskaya regularly excoriates with galvinizing abandon the soviet lackeys with whom she had to deal! She names names and motives, because it's the damned truth! The West in general and artists in particular owe a huge debt to Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya for the willing sacrifice of themselves in exile for the simple truth. Rostropovich garners the commentary in the West with the cello & conducting, but Galina is the heart of genius, and THAT seems the telling component in this book. Her depiction of Solzhenitsyn is heartrending, and stands as the book's axis; everything leads to it, and derives from it. Her friendship with Shostakovich, her brilliant feelings toward him-- an almost daughterly reverence informed by the highest artistic aesthetic. It's also through the part Shostakovich played in her life that we meet a musically learned Galina as well. She was a musician FIRST, singer second. How rare and wonderful - no wonder Slava fell in love! Galina dances with the shadows of Shostakovich throughout, & it's one of the book's endearing aspects. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good and on time
Published 2 months ago by Karin L. Rathke
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life and Trials of a Great Artist
This is a fantastic book for anyone who loves the art of Galina Vishnevskaya. I think that if you are interested in opera in general, you will enjoy Galina relating her career... Read more
Published 17 months ago by David A. Wend
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful and interesting book about the life of a great Russian Lady singer.
Published 18 months ago by charles fasciana
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great story, and best telling of what life was like in the Soviet Union.
Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
My favorite autobiography. Was so happy to find a copy here. a

A glimpse into performing in Stalinist Russia comes to life here.
Published 20 months ago by C. Swisher
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Artist at the End of the 20th Century
A tremendous book. Of course, I'm an opera lover. And I find the "Russian soprano" sound thrilling. Read more
Published on June 27, 2014 by John Michael Albert
5.0 out of 5 stars A picture of Russian Life in the Arts
I always thought Russia valued their Musical Artists but this book reveals the truth and it is shockingly far from what I had always thought. Read more
Published on March 16, 2014 by Alex Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't put it down!
I have only just started reading, and I can't put it down. Galina Vishnevskaya was not only a great opera singer but a gripping storyteller. Read more
Published on February 11, 2014 by ItalianOperaFan
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
I love it, however if you are Russian like me and read English version you understand about russian culture, you can noice not very great translation
Published on December 25, 2013 by Larisa G. Horback
This book has the author giving a brutally honest look at life inside the Soviet Union. She tells all even if the matters do not necessarily make her look good. Read more
Published on December 14, 2013 by irishrogue
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