While Galina Vishneskaya is known to classical music fans as a gifted operatic soprano and the wife of cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, she lived a truly remarkable life long before she made a name for herself in the arts. Born in 1926, Vishneskaya's mother was a gypsy and her father was Russian; concerned for the child's safety, Galina was handed over to her grandmother when she was less than two months old. As a youngster, Vishneskaya witnessed the siege of Leningrad first hand, and might not have survived the war if not for her musical talent. At sixteen, she found work with a traveling opera company, and two years later, she successfully auditioned for a spot in the company of Moscow's renowned Bolshoi Theater. Vishneskaya became one of Russia's most celebrated divas and enjoyed a storybook romance with Mstislav Rostropovich, but she came to despise the control the Soviet authorities held over her life and her art. In 1974, Vishneskaya and Rostropovich left the USSR to seek exile in Paris, where despite their reputation they struggled to rebuild their careers from scratch. Galina is a documentary by filmmaker Eline Flipse which explores Vishneskaya's tumultuous life as well as her accomplishments as a musician; the film was screened in competition at the 2007 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
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