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Dinara Alieva in Moscow

spacer Arias and songs by Charpentier, Massenet, Torroba, Luna, Lehár, Kálmán, Arlen, Loewe, Gershwin, Salter, others. Russian National Orchestra and Grand Choir, Masters of Choral Singing, Orbelian. Delos DV7007, 90 mins., subtitled

Recordings Dinara Alieva DVD Cover 815

Azerbaijani soprano Dinara Alieva’s voice is quite a deluxe instrument — an evenly produced full lyric with a sultry, interesting middle leading up to a big, plush, gleamy top. I was reminded of my first hearing of Bulgarian soprano Anna Tomowa-Sintow on the Met’s Centennial broadcast in 1983.

This concert with chorus and orchestra, conducted by American Constantine Orbelian, took place in April 2014, in the beautiful Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. Predictably, the video features an orchestral selection before each vocal grouping. As the singer ventures to each new language, the mood is set by an appropriate orchestral piece. Before the French, we are treated to Offenbach; before the Italian, the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut. The Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve introduces the two zarzuela arias. Then Bernstein’s Mambo from West Side Story comes before two American popular songs. Finally, the two operetta arias are preceded by the non-vocal version of Johann Strauss’s Frühlingsstimmen. Orchestral sound is transparent and well balanced, and the camera work is so close that it would be possible to recognize orchestra players on the streets of Moscow!

Alieva begins with what turn out to be her weakest contributions, “Depuis le jour,” from Louise, the Gavotte and “Adieu, notre petite table,” from Manon. Her French is particularly unidiomatic, and the Gavotte lacks charm, nuance and any real understanding of the coquette. She follows with an unimaginative but beautifully vocalized “Io son l’umile ancella.” Actually, Alieva brings nothing new to any of the concert’s texts. She is interpretively general and relies on a few stock gestures. Also not surprising is her costume change (during the Falla) to a bright-red satin gown, with her long brown hair swept over to one side, and a matching red cabbage rose over one ear. The only thing missing is a sign in Cyrillic reading, “Kiss me quick, I’m Carmen.” Her singing of Torroba’s “Peterneta” and the well-known “De España vengo,” by Pablo Luna, are quite another story. Here, the soprano comes into her own: her voice soars and dips excitingly with rhythmic precision, and the audience rewards her with rhythmic clapping and midconcert floral tributes.

It seems impossible to me that Alieva can never have heard Judy Garland (or any other American) sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but her English emerges as a mishmash of wrong words and mispronunciations. To her credit, she sings it like an operatic soprano, not a pop wannabe; her voice remains even throughout, and she adds a gorgeous ossia that takes her thrillingly above the staff, finishing with an unexpectedly dreamy soft ending. “I Could Have Danced All Night” is equally well sung, and this time her English is more intelligible. The soprano sings both the Lehár and the Kálmán as if to the manner born, and these offerings are met with even more flowers and rhythmic applause. The concert ends with a lovely (if textually approximate) “Summertime,” followed by an homage to Deanna Durbin — the Russian medley from her film His Butler’s Sister, erroneously listed as “The Butler’s Sister” in the otherwise very complete booklet, which includes biographical information, lyrics in original languages and English translation, along with decent liner notes. spacer

SCOTT BARNES

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