with Barbara Massaro, soprano (Don Carlo)
Coro del Teatro Municipale di Piacenza
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI
Giacomo Sagripanti, conductor
The present recording is the first solo album of Georgian mezzosoprano Anita Rachvelishvili. Born in Tbilisi in 1984, this young and talented singer gained international fame thanks to the world television broadcast of the opening of La Scala’s season in 2009. On that occasion, she sang the title role in Carmen opposite Jonas Kaufmann and under Daniel Barenboim’s conduction. Carmen is Rachvelishvili’s eponymous role, but her repertoire includes also Dalila in Samson et Dalila, Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice, Lyubasha in The Tsar’s Bride, Olga in Eugene Onegin, Dulcinée in Don Quichotte and Konchakovka in Prince Igor. The arias and scenes of some of these heroines, together with several others, make up the programme of this collection. It includes French, Italian, Russian and Georgian operas composed between late 19th and early 20th century.
The Many Qualities of Rachvelishvili ’s Voice
The many qualities for which Rachvelishvili has been praised from her La Scala debut are all well represented in this recording. She has a warm, large, ringing mezzo voice which is remarkable for its flexibility and smoothness. Moreover, her strong temperament always makes you guess an intelligent interpreter and not only a fine singer. Rachvelishvili’s full-throated and robust singing is characterized by effortless sound that allows her to be uniform in all the registers, to hit some radiant high notes and above all to phrase with such elegance that her sentences seem endless. Her diction in all the languages of this album is accurate and clear. Furthermore, Rachvelishvili’s taste is absolutely impeccable, thanks also to her performances on stage of several of these roles.
Rachvelishvili ’s Performance
Carmen and Dalila
Appropriately, the album opens with the role that made Rachvelishvili famous: Carmen. The mezzosoprano sings both the Habanera and the Seguidilla. Rachvelishvili’s Carmen is a sensuous and vibrant woman, to whom the singer’s warm voice infuses the right dose of vitality. In both arias, Rachvelishvili’s Carmen is in high spirit and with a propensity for wit and lightness. She gives prominence to these features with the choice of original accents and with her sparkling temperament. She achieves the same, fine result as Dalila, of whom Rachvelishvili sings both Printemps qui commence and Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix with passion and élan.
Azucena, Eboli, Santuzza
Azucena, of course, is a completely different matter. The shift in tone and feelings that her aria creates after Carmen and Dalila is quite unexpected. Rachvelishvili does not sing the flamboyant and more predictable Stride la vampa, but Condotta ell’era in ceppi, so that she has the chance to display not only her vocal clarity, but also the command of the role. Her dramatic commitment to Azucena creates a powerful impression. From the very beginning you have the impression to listen to a particularly distressed gipsy woman, but it does not make you foresee the paroxysm of nervous tension and pain that characterizes Rachvelishvili’s singing from the desperate “Mi vendica!” onwards. Her voice gives you the creeps.
Actually, both Verdi heroines, Azucena and Eboli (in her second aria), together with Santuzza, share the same dramatic spirit. If Eboli in the first aria Nel giardin del bello is lively and Rachvelishvili has the chance to reveal the incredible agility of her voice, in O don fatale the singer offers an energetic and intense performance, however spoiled by the loud orchestra and by the fast conduction of Giacomo Sagripanti. As for Santuzza (Voi lo sapete, o mamma), Rachvelishvili’s performance is noteworthy for the sorrow that her voice can express.
Lyubasha, Charlotte, King Tamar and Sapho
The only Russian aria in Rachvelishvili’s album is Lyubasha’s song from the first act of The Tsar’s Bride. In this beautiful, unaccompanied aria, Rachvelishvili is more lyrical than sad, but her voice is melancholic and stirring. It can be said that, if really a voice has the power to emotionally affect those who listen to it, this is one of those cases in which the miracle happens.
Finally, in the arias from Werther (Je vous écris), The Legend of Shota Rustaveli (Cavatina of King Tamar) and Sapho (O ma lyre immortelle) Rachvelishvili portrays three heroines that are remarkable for Charlotte’s mildness and tenderness, for the lyricism and energy of King Tamar and for the poetic and yet intense Sapho.
Anita Rachvelishvili’s debut album gives a very good idea of her skill and vocal means. She suits perfectly all these roles, being them femmes fatales as Carmen (to whom, however, Rachvelishvili gives a lively and frank character), deserted women as Santuzza and Lyubasha or other creatures who are unhappy for one reason or the other. For all of them, Rachvelishvili finds the right way to give prominence to their feelings, thanks to her sound technique and her honeyed voice.