Wiener Staatsoper Live
Bellini, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Verdi
I Puritani, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Pique Dame, Don Carlo, Rigoletto, Eugen Onegin, Simon Boccanegra, La traviata, Un ballo in maschera
Live Recordings 1994-2016
Orfeo, 2018Buy from Amazon
This recording is part of the series Wiener Staatsoper Live, which brings together historical performances made in the Viennese theatre and broadcasted by the Austrian Radio. This time, the new release is dedicated to Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who sang more than seventy times at the Staatsoper between 1994 and 2016: he was a member of the cast of ten operas, and performed in solo concerts as well. This album presents arias and scenes from operas Hvorostovsky performed frequently, including eponymous roles as Eugene Onegin and Giorgio Germont.
Hvorostovsky Live at the Wiener Staatsoper
The only flaw of this album is that the recorded sound is not the best you could wish for. There are too many background noises, especially in the older recordings. In the most recent ones, the sound improves, but it is never high quality.
Hvorostovsky, on the other hand, never fails to meet expectations. His flexible, ringing voice, his strong temperament and his profound sensitivity as an interpreter make a musical gem of every aria or scene.
One of the first things that are really noteworthy after finishing the listening is that his voice always has the same smoothness and elegance in phrasing independently from the role and the time of the performance. Perhaps the very first recordings (Riccardo in I Puritani and Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia) do not reveal the same imposing generosity of later performances (I am thinking in particular of the magnanimous abundance of Simon Boccanegra), but they too display the same vocal and dramatic commitment.
Hvorostovsky’s versatility as an interpreter knows no limits. This recording brings together one of the most intense performances of Ah, per sempre io ti perdei and one of the most entertaining Figaro ever heard, as well as a romantic, though at times deliberately bookish Prince Yeletsky (from The Queen of Spades). Pedantry is a trait that characterizes also Onegin, who Hvorostovsky portrays as a haughty young man.
The Verdi Roles
However, it is in the Verdi roles that Hvorostovsky finds some of the most original expressions. His sardonic and embittered Rigoletto is unforgettable and it is incredible to hear how Hvorostovsky has been able to give prominence to every single feeling, from distress to affection, of the Court jester. The description of Rigoletto’s grotesque condition, which prevents him from finding solace in crying, is a masterpiece of sadness and sarcasm at the same time.
Hvorostovsky’s noble Boccanegra is equally remarkable, first of all for his deep humanity, which is one of the strong points of the performance, as I pointed out also in my review of the complete recording. The gorgeous arch of sound that Hvorostovsky creates with his voice when he has to sing the final, majestic “e vo’ gridando pace, e vo’ gridando amor” is a deeply moving, emotionally intense moment where the character’s liberality and singing generosity find their perfect synthesis.
However, it is the sadistic, uncompassionate Giorgio Germont that is really amazing. In the duet with Violetta from the second act, Hvorostovsky stresses maliciously the words and does not seem to be sympathetic at all with the woman of loose morals (who is, incidentally, sung very well by Marina Rebeka). On the contrary, with the strength of his words, Germont seems rather inclined to humiliate her and to insinuate constantly that her condition is irrecoverable.
Finally, Renato in Un ballo in maschera is an indignant character who let himself get carried away by rapturous contemplation in the lyrical part of the aria.
In conclusion, these live recordings from the Wiener Staatsoper are definitely worth listening to. It features some of Hvorostovsky’s best characters, performed with the same stylishness and subtlety that characterize each of the great baritone’s performances.Buy from Amazon