AT LAST, A GREAT MEZZO-SOPRANO!

Welcome Belarusian mezzo-soprano Oksana Volkova, now into the second decade of a stellar career that has taken her to most of the major opera houses in Europe. The MET will hopefully welcome her back when it opens, offering her some major roles that, judging by this superb DELOS recording she should be invited to sing, thus allowing American audiences to embrace this extraordinary artist.

The Delos CD opens with O ma lyre immortelle from Gounod’s rarely done Sapho. In this aria and in two selections from Samson et Dalila: Printemps qui commence and Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix  the Belarusian singer displays a luscious sound that she commands up and down her ample range along with a seamless technique.

Beyond the technical prowess required to sing the selections featured in this CD Volkova has at her command a palette of colors that coupled to interesting interpretive choices make her an artist to reckon with.

Her Connais-tu le pays from Thomas’ Mignon bears the sound of innocence throughout, in contrast with the heroic outpouring of her Ximena in Pleurez! pleurez mes yeux from Massenet’s Le Cid or her fiery Carmen, whose Seguidilla  Volkova brings to vibrant life with supple agility and potent chest tones. The singer conveys the anguish of Charlotte in the brief air des larmes from Massenet’s Werther as eloquently as this listener recalls from memories of some of the great interpreters of this part.

Volkova is equally at home in the French repertoire, which she sings with flawless diction, and in the Italian Verismo of Cavalleria Rusticana and Adrianna Lecouvreur from both of which she sings signature arias with intense passion.

And, naturally, she shines in the Russian selections that include rarities – an aria from The Gray Legend by Belarusian composer Dmitry Smolski, and Lyubava’s tender scene from Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Sadko. Volkova is magnificent in the well-known aria of Joan from Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orleans and bone-chilling in Marfa’s somber prophecy from Khovanshchina . In both excerpts Volkova lets her dramatic temperament and her imposing voice to go full out all in service of Tchaikovsky’s and Mussorgsky’s music without ever overstepping the limits of good judgment.

Throughout the CD Constantine Orbelian leads the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra ever supportive of and attentive to his artist.

Comparisons can be odious if negatively used, but positively applied when praise is given: Volkova’s stylish singing, her ever unflagging sound, her impeccable way with texts in French, Italian and her native Belorussian and Russian remind this listener of some of her Slavic compatriots – notably the no-holds-barred sound of the late and great Elena Obraztsova – along with the Italianate lyricism of both Giulietta Simionato and Ebe Stignani. But when all is said and done, Oksana Volkova is her own, unique, special artist – one at the peak of her powers.

Rafael de Acha     ALL ABOUT THE ARTS (c/o www.rafaelmusicnotes.com)

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