Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Sondra Radvanovsky: "Hvorostovsky In Moscow"
Arias and scenes from Un Ballo in Maschera, Don Carlo, Ernani, Faust and Il Trovatore. Philharmonia of Russia, Orbelian. Delos DV 7006, 42 mins. (concert), 16 mins. (bonus), subtitled
As part of Dmitri Hvorostovsky's Moscow concert series "Hvorostovsky and Friends," the Siberian star invited American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky to join him in arias and duets by Verdi and others. In what was their first musical meeting, in June 2008, both artists offered vocal colors and fiery temperaments that meshed thrillingly, as evidenced on a new DVD from Delos, which includes material not heard on the earlier CD release of the same concert.
One of the highlights of the audio disc is the stunning performance of the father–daughter duet from Simon Boccanegra, and it's a pity not to have that on video. Even so, there is enough material here to thrill fans of both singers, and it's a delight to see them play off one another with bristling intensity.
Radvanovsky and Hvorostovsky's stage chemistry is entertaining to watch, with the baritone's control and reserved power nicely complementing the soprano's dramatic edginess and uninhibited ferocity. Verdi's vocal effects come naturally to these musical actors, and just the right amount of stage movement brings dramatic life to the duet scenes. The Act III confrontation from Un Ballo in Maschera shows the baritone's menace and venom in full vocal force (a bitter, snarly "Eri tu"), contrasted with the soprano's desperation and lyric intensity ("Morrò, ma prima in grazia," delivered from her knees).
Another confrontation, from the last act of Il Trovatore, brings out further menace and torment from Hvorostovsky, along with arm-twisting and pained pleading from Radvanovsky, who propels the filigree of "Vivrà! Contende il giubilo" with attractive daring and vocal abandon.
Hvorostovsky offers two solos here that were not available on the audio release. The first is Carlo's aria from Ernani, which reveals the baritone's signature legato and athletically impressive breath control, emphasized by physical stillness that draws attention to his always expressive face. The other, Valentin's "Avant de quitter ces lieux," from Faust, receives a grand reading, with broad tempos from conductor Constantine Orbelian and a huge top A-flat from Hvorostovsky. The baritone's interpretation of Posa's death scene from Don Carlo is seasoned, and every throbbing nuance is explored and delivered effectively. Again, Hvorostovsky's extraordinary breath control draws the listener viscerally into the action, and the ending, without indulgence or crooning, hits the mark.
Every selection on the program is announced in Russian and followed by floral tributes. A sea of onstage microphones and plenty of audience shots in the brightly lit auditorium of the Moscow Conservatory contribute to the fun, fan-club atmosphere of this gala concert.