ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien
Cornelius Meister, conductor
If there is ever been a successful debut recording, this wonderful album by Aida Garifullina can certainly be considered that one. The winner of Placido Domingo’s Operalia 2013 makes her debut in one of the best ways, singing arias from the French and Russian repertoires that are dear to her or that have been associated to her for some reason. Garifullina interprets then familiar arias to make her task easier and to approach the general public with the music that she likes the most. This is, of course, a widely adopted strategy, but this time the feelings behind this choice are clearer than ever.
It is a matter of fact that Garifullina confers to these arias her peculiar sweetness and warmth, helped by an extremely rich, creamy and soft voice. She is able to express the most delicate feelings without any particular effort and her flawless and homogenous singing makes her superb.
The album opens with some famous coloratura arias which constitute an effective introduction to Garifullina’s singing: together with breathtaking coloratura, she stands out for her smooth legato and for her elegant phrasing. In the first aria, Je veux vivre from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Garifullina is more romantic than joyful, a nuance determined also by the choice of time, which is just a little slower than usual, but I think that this trait suits this character, who becomes simply charming. The next piece is the so-called Bell Song (Où va la jeune Indoue) from Delibes’s Lakmé, an aria Garifullina sang in the movie Florence, where she played soprano Lily Pons, and that she reproposes here with shining high notes.
The major part of the recording is devoted to Russian music, written by renowned composers (Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov) or taken from the folklore. This section is the most personal one for Garifullina: as she explains in the booklet, some of these songs, especially Rachmaninov’s Lilacs and How Beautiful It Is Here, «seem full of nostalgia and they reminded me of home». Garifullina has the best opportunity to show the charm of her singing without worrying too much about the coloratura, something that allows to enjoy her wonderful vocal line even better.
Rachmaninov’s Vocalise is one of the best songs. Garifullina has chosen for her model soprano Anna Moffo, wanting «to realise the same kind of bright sadness, of suffering and unrealised hopes as beautifully as she did». After listening to Garifullina, I have to say that her wish is absolutely fulfilled because her sensibility suits the lyricism of the Vocalise to perfection and she finds some wonderful colours that make it moving.
I would like to remember also the beautiful arias from Mazeppa, which Garifullina sings expressing Maria’s fragility, and Rimsky-Kosakov’s aria from The Snow Maiden. The aria from the prologue of this opera is the one Garifullina sang during the Operalia competition at Domingo’s request and actually she interprets it with a youthful and gentle spirit that makes it lovely.
As for the folk music, I suggest you two pieces at the end of the album, Cossack’s Lullaby and Moscow Nights, that Garifullina sings giving result to their loving and melancholic tunes.
This album is thus a great introduction to Aida Garifullina’s art and I will wait for her next works with great expectations.