Verdi - Opera Scenes
Delos DE 3403
Among Giuseppe Verdi’s gifts to the opera repertoire is a welcome body of duets for baritone and soprano. Unless baritones can cultivate a credible upper range to allow for occasional forays into tenor repertoire, they often languish for opportunities at musical dalliance with sopranos.
Moreover, matching vocal colour and weight in a baritone/soprano duo can be tricky… but happily not impossible, as this recording demonstrates so well. Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s long career and vocal gifts have placed him in that small group of must-hear Verdi baritones. Pairing him with the beautifully matched voice of Sondra Radvanovsky makes for a wonderfully compelling recording of Verdi opera excerpts.
Hvorostovsky brings tremendous vocal security and experienced dramatic delivery to his various roles. Radvanovsky matches him measure for measure and the results are stunning. The recording’s producers have wisely selected Un Ballo’s Act 3 Scene 1 duet by Amelia and Renato to open the CD. Beautifully executed, this track firmly holds the listener’s attention for the balance of the disc.
In addition to the duets, 3 solos let us enjoy the voices in their own spotlight. Radvanovsky performs “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak’s Rusalka in a way the composer must have imagined a Slavic voice should sing it. Her semi-spoken ending is especially poignant. Further, Hvorostovsky sings Mozart’s “Deh vieni” from Don Giovanni, lightening his approach as much as possible but perhaps leaving us appreciating the more natural airiness of his Italian counterparts.
However, one cannot fault the authentically Russian colour and tone of Hvorostovsky’s voice. While artfully managed in the Verdi repertoire, it flowers fully and richly in another recent recording of Tchaikovsky Romances (DELOS DE3393).
Radvanovsky finally closes the live performance with a powerfully and flawlessly executed “Vissi d’arte” (Tosca). The audience in the Moscow Conservatory’s Great Hall reportedly applauded for twenty minutes after this concert – and they had every reason to do so.
Concert Note: Sondra Radvanovsky and Dmitri Hvorostovsky are featured in “An Italian Opera Spectacular” at Roy Thomson Hall on March 20.