In case you don’t already know, internationally revered operatic baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky (DH) has been one of Delos’ all-time favorite (and most prolific) recording artists for more than a decade now. Thus we’re truly tickled to call your attention to Oussama Zahr’s classy and perceptive cover story devoted to DH which graces the February issue of Opera News (already on the street and online). This glowing tribute comes in the wake of that distinguished magazine’s selection of DH last August to be honored (among five living operatic legends) at the seventh annual Opera News Awards at the Plaza in New York City this April. The article is a goldmine of information about DH’s performing history, artistic evolution, and vocal/technical qualities – and it overflows with sensitive commentary and informed speculation in the context of his thriving career of more than 20 years.
Zahr’s very comprehensive piece touches on most aspects and significant happenings of DH’s remarkable career. In a nutshell, he discusses his subject’s sensational appearance on the international operatic scene in the early 1990’s, the essential qualities of his voice and technique, his most notable early successes, his mid-career crisis of confidence, and how he has managed to incorporate his glamorous, silver-maned good looks (and obvious “sex appeal”) into his overall style as a singing actor – with a disarming lack of personal ego.
But the main thrust of the article has to do with how DH has evolved into a Verdi baritone par excellence, even though his consistently lyrical, legato and long-breathed approach is hardly compatible with the “rough and gruff” Verdi style that, more often than not, we’ve been hearing from other leading baritones in recent decades. Even though he enjoyed conspicuous successes in Verdi roles early in his career, DH reportedly believed that his voice – which has taken on a darker cast over the years – needed to “grow” into some of the more dramatic mature roles. Those include Don Carlo in Ernani and Di Luna in Il Trovatore.
Zahr reports that DH, ever since boyhood, has been drawn to the beauty and essentially “bel canto” nature of many Verdi baritone roles. DH is quoted in the article as noting that Verdi “… was a baritone himself,” and that “The most comfortable and beautifully written lines are written for baritone by Verdi, by far.” Thus he doesn’t hesitate to apply his signature style to them while leaving it to his “onyx-colored” vocal timbres to bring out an aria’s dramatic impression. As DH put it, “… even the Italian singers … do not represent the ultimate beauty of Italian technique anymore — especially in the Verdi repertoire. It’s all about barking and shouting.” But he further comments that this “… style is being changed” – and we can only conclude that DH is a prominent exponent of that trend.
The article offers further insights into DH’s stage presence and performing style from Delos’ very own Constantine Orbelian, his close friend and collaborator – who conducts either his Moscow Chamber Orchestra or the Philharmonia of Russia in DH’s many recordings for Delos. Zahr relays Constantine’s observations to the effect that DH hardly fits the prevailing physically demonstrative and overtly emotional stereotype of your typical Russian performer. He points out that DH, being from Siberia, is a different sort of Russian artist who brings a certain reserve and noble (but never aloof) bearing to his performances – though his characters’ emotions are no less deeply felt or expressed. “That’s why he sits so well in these roles, as a Prince Yeletsky or a Eugene Onegin,” says Constantine. “The whole body language is aristocracy. He just has this way that he carries himself.”
And Constantine should know, having done the conducting in DH’s pair of wondrous Verdi recordings for Delos: Verdi Arias (DE 3292) and – with the spectacular collaboration of leading Verdi soprano Sondra Radvanovsky – Verdi Opera Scenes (DE 3403). The latter recording – initially made for broadcast on Russian TV – will be released on DVD (Hvorostovsky in Moscow) in early February, adding a stunning “you-are-there” visual dimension to the CD’s fabulous sound.
Zahr points out that Orbelian has also been involved in another major aspect of DH’s career – one that has made him something of a “national treasure” in Russia. In 2003, their live concert of WWII-era popular songs was broadcast nationwide on the anniversary of Russia’s victory in the “Great War.” Around 90 million viewers tuned in, gaining DH a more “mainstream” fan base in Russia, and encouraging him to continue pursuing the crossover side of his career. As Constantine recalls, the day after the broadcast, “There wasn’t a cab driver, a waitress or anyone in the country who didn’t know who Dmitri Hvorostovsky was. He was a national hero.”
Many of the songs performed in that concert are to be found in the Delos CD, Where Are You, my Brothers (Delos 3315). Delos’ sequel to that one is Moscow Nights (DE 3339), containing songs that were performed during his subsequent series of smash-hit concert tours (with Constantine) throughout the Russian Federation, during which huge crowds consistently turned out to hear and cheer their idol. Other like-spirited DH CDs from Delos are I Met You, my Love (DE 3293), and Passione di Napoli (DE 3290); there’s also the DVD, To Russia With Love (DV 7005).
It’s about time that DH got this level of recognition in the opera world’s premier magazine. If you aren’t familiar with the full range of DH’s multifaceted artistry (or even if you are), we urge you to explore his wide array of recordings at the Delos Store. Sample a track or two…only then will you truly realize what all the fuss is about!
The following Dmitri Hvorostovsky CDs are now just $7.99 on the Delos Store through the end of February! Click the album cover to purchase!
Download the following Delos Dmitri Hvorostovsky albums on iTunes now on sale from $5.99-$7.99 through the end of February!
The full Dmitri Delos Catalog: