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    Galina Vishnevskaya, 86; exiled opera star aided dissident

    Paul Hosefros/N.Y. Times/1984

    MOSCOW — World- ­renowned Russian opera diva Galina Vishnevskaya, who with her husband ­defied the Soviet regime to give shelter to writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and suffered exile from her homeland, died Tuesday at 86.

    Moscow’s Opera Center, which Mrs. Vishnevskaya created, said the singer celebrated internationally for her rich soprano voice died in the Russian capital but gave no cause.

    Mrs. Vishnevskaya and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich married in 1955, 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.


    ‘‘They hosted Solzhenitsyn at the moment when he had no place to live, even though they knew that the authorities will not pat them over their shoulder for doing that,’’ said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissidentat the Moscow Helsinki Group rights watchdog.

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    After Solzhenitsyn was expelled, Mrs. Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich left the ­Soviet Union 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 her third husband, died in 2007.

    Mrs. Vishnevskaya joined Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater in 1952, making her debut as Tatiana in ­‘‘Yevgeny Onegin’’ the following year. She remained its prima for more than two decades. Dmitri Shostakovichwrote two song cycles for her.

    She made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Aida in 1961.