PASSINGS: Galina Vishnevskaya, Lisa della Casa, Paul Rauch

Galina Vishnevskaya

Russian opera singer, wife of Rostropovich


Galina Vishnevskaya, 86, a world-renowned Russian opera diva who with her husband defied the Soviet regime to give shelter to writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and suffered exile from her homeland, died Tuesday in Moscow.

Moscow's Opera Center, which Vishnevskaya created, announced her death but did not state the cause.

Vishnevskaya, celebrated internationally for her rich soprano voice, married cellist Mstislav Rostropovich in 1955. They frequently performed together and used their star status in the Soviet Union to help friends in trouble. In the most notable example of their defiance of the Communist authorities, they sheltered Solzhenitsyn at their country home for several years as he faced official reprisals.

After Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the country, Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich left with their two daughters in 1974. They lived in Paris and then Washington, and were stripped of their Soviet citizenship in 1978.

They returned to Russia after the Soviet collapse and became involved in public activities and charitable work. Rostropovich, who was Vishnevskaya's third husband, died in 2007.

Vishnevskaya was born Oct. 25, 1926, in Leningrad. Her parents separated when she was 5, and she was raised by her grandmother. She remained in the city during the Nazi siege during World War II and served as a volunteer helping defend the city from Luftwaffe bombings.

Vishnevskaya joined Moscow's Bolshoi Theater in 1952, making her debut as Tatiana in "Yevgeny Onegin" the following year. She remained its prima donna for more than two decades, performing dozens of soprano roles in Russian and European opera classics.

Dmitri Shostakovich, a neighbor and a close friend, wrote two song cycles and an orchestration of Mussorgsky's "Songs and Dances of Death" for her. Benjamin Britten wanted her to be part of the premiere of his "War Requiem" in 1962, but the authorities prevented her from leaving the Soviet Union.

She made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Aida in 1961 and first sang Liu in Turandot at La Scala in 1964. In 1966, she won the coveted title of People's Artist of the U.S.S.R.

Lisa della Casa

Soprano known for Mozart, Strauss roles

Lisa della Casa, 93, a soprano known for her sweet voice and exquisite elegance, died Monday in the Swiss town of Muensterlingen, the Vienna Opera announced.

The late English music critic Sir Neville Cardus reportedly once said of Della Casa that one should go to her concerts twice: once to listen, once to look.

The soprano "possessed an instrument of crystalline purity," a Times reviewer wrote in 1990 of her landmark recording of Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs."


Della Casa was born in 1919 in Burgdorf, Switzerland, and trained in Zurich. She made her debut in 1941 performing in Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" in the Swiss town of Solothurn-Biel. She remained in neutral Switzerland during World War II.

After the war she went on to sing on the world's great opera stages, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House and La Scala. She was a member of the Vienna State Opera, where she appeared 411 times.

Della Casa went on to perform many of the great roles, including in such operas as "La Boheme" and "Rigoletto."

But she was especially known for her interpretations of Strauss and Mozart, notably in Strauss' "Arabella," "Der Rosenkavalier" and "Ariadne auf Naxos" and in Mozart's "Don Giovanni," "The Marriage of Figaro" and "The Magic Flute."

She often returned to the role of the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro," which she sang regularly in Europe and at the Met.

The singer retired unexpectedly in 1974. She disdained the dishonorable aspects of the music business and, according to the "All Music Guide to Classical Music," she "loathed the intrigues, jealousies, and cabals that often infested the operatic world."


Paul Rauch, a longtime executive in the daytime drama world who produced "Another World," "One Life to Live" and "Santa Barbara," died Monday in New York of complications from blood clots, said his wife, playwright Israela Margalit. He was 78.

Times staff and wire reports