Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky announced to the world in June 2015 that he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. That ailment would take his life at the age of 55, less than three years after the terrible news.
After undergoing treatment for his malady the Russian baritone defiantly resumed his performance and recording schedule. It seems to be nothing short of miraculous that this artist could summon the energy and resolve to record this album of excerpts from Russian operas during October of 2015, barely four months after the terrible news.
In the DELOS (DE3517) CD Dmitri Hvorostovsky Sings of War, Peace and Sorrow the artist delivers an impressively artistic product that adds one more triumph to his recorded legacy.
And it is not only Hvorostovsky’s attention to the textual and musical details of this music that astounds this listener, but the riveting sound of a true dramatic baritone at the height of his vocal powers.
The selection of arias – altogether six extended ones – is unpredictable. The album has six tracks, each dedicated to a scene from several operas off the beaten path, even for Russian Opera.
Hvorostovsky sings the entire opening scene from Prokofiev’s War and Peace, a mid-20th century work that still inhabited the Russian Romanticism of the previous century. The role of Prince Andrej is really more that of a bass-baritone, but Hvorostovsky sings it with his usual big-voiced expressivity.
Joining him in the scene, soprano Asmik Grigorian and mezzo-soprano Irina Shiskova both make a strong impression.
O Mariya, Mariya! from Tchaikovsky’s rarely seen Mazeppa again showcases Hvorostovsky in an impassioned declaration of mature love. Robert’s aria from the same composer’s Iolanta is also a description of love, but that of a young man speaking to his best friend. In both we hear Hvorostovsky’s legendary top voice and elegant musicality.
Tomsky’s Tri karty from Pikovaya Dama is a chilling narrative that Hvorostovsky handles with the skill of a great actor, assisted by two Russian colleagues: Igor Morozov and Mikhail Guzhov.
In Yesli b milyye devitsy Hvorostovsky lightens the mood with a folksy ditty about the birds and the bees and the girls sung by the cad Tomsky.
Hvorostovsky saves the big vocal and musical guns for the end, singing the final scene from Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon. As the object of his demonic affections, Asmik Grigorian and countertenor Vadim Volkov as his heavenly rival make the scene come alive.
How tragic that much as Hvorostovsky wanted to perform some of these rarities on stage no enterprising opera company inside or outside of Russia ever mounted Mazeppa or The Demon for him, let alone the huge War and Peace. Many of us did see him as Yelevsky in Pikovaya Dama and in the title role of Eugene Onegin and we will cherish those memories.
As is always her trademark, DELOS’s Carol Roenberger assembled a world class artistic and technical team with which to surround Hvorostovsky. Finest in this fine list, Constantine Orbelian leading the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia and the Helikon Opera Chorus, provides immense support to his star. Genaddy Papin flawlessly engineered the project.
Rafael de Acha