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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 13, No. 3 November 2007

Dmitri Hvorostovsky

by Wah Keung Chan / November 18, 2007

When La Scena Musicale first met Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky ten years ago (June 1998 issue), he was already well into his promising career as one of the world’s leading baritones. At the time Philip Anson wrote “When he walked into the café of New York’s elegant Stanhope Hotel wearing dark glasses and a black leather jacket, he radiated movie star glamour. Call it charisma or animal magnetism, Hvorostovsky is one of nature’s physical aristocrats. Those sardonically sensual lips, that trademark mane of silver hair and those hooded Slavic eyes suggesting cruel Tartar ancestry - the man is totally hot and, paradoxically, cold.”

Hvorostovsky was a sex-symbol then and he still makes women swoon today, as viewers to the Met’s Live Telecast of Eugene Onegin would attest. As Anson reported, “Hvorostovsky is more than just another ‘barihunk.’ He is a serious artist struggling to balance artistic and commercial pressures at ‘a very difficult time for classical music,’ he said ‘when even excellent musicians are being dropped by record companies.’” True to form, Hvorostovsky has resisted the temptation to do crossover. At the time, Hvorostovsky was a Philips Classics artist. That changed 7 years ago, when he signed with the Delos label. Today, Hvorostovsky is at his prime on stage and in the recording studio. His Verdian baritone has further matured and he seems to be ready to take on the heavy rep.

The latest CD from Delos is Heroes and Villains, Hvorostovsky’s entry into the Great baritone repertoire. His rendition of Igor’s aria from Borodin’s Prince Igor and Boris’s aria from Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov shows that he is the ideal baritone of his generation in the Russian rep roles. The French repertoire (arias from Faust, Hérodiade, Carmen and Hamlet) fits Hvorostovsky exceptionally well, vocally and musically. His successful portrayal of arias from Andrea Chenier, La Forza del Destino, Pagliacci and Tosca continues his development as one of the leading Verdian baritones of his generation. His Scarpia is menacing enough to give Terfel competition, although his Pagliacci prologue showed signs of effort. The inclusion of Wolfram’s aria from Wagner’s Tannhäuser signals his wish to enter a new direction. Here, Hvorostovsky has the right tone and legato but not quite the sensitivity of the song.

In November, Hvorostovsky begins a North American tour “To Russia with Love” with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra and the Academy of Choral Art conducted by Constantine Orbelian that touches down in Montreal (Nov. 24), Quebec City (Nov. 26) and Toronto (Nov. 29). On the program are the Canadian premiere of Songs of the War Years, Russian Folk songs plus arias from The Queen of Spades, The Tsar’s Bride, and his unforgettable rendition of Eugene Onegin.



Dmitri Hvorostovsky: Heroes and Villains

Philharmonia of Russia, Constantine Orbelian, conductor

Delos DE3365 (72 min. 59 sec.)


(c) La Scena Musicale