Alieva and Antonenko
In the search for big voiced singers for the Italian repertoire, we are getting used to looking east to the countries of the former Soviet Union rather than south to the Mediterranean. Dinara Alieva is from Azerbaijan, Aleksandrs Antonenko from Latvia, and they are typical of the generation that has been taking over the major Verdi and Puccini roles. Antonenko, who has just opened the Metropolitan Opera season as Otello, is already well established. Alieva mostly has lighter roles such as Donna Elvira and Violetta to her credit, so in her case this duo recital is looking more towards the future.
In the Italian repertoire on this disc they are heard to best effect where the music rouses itself to passion, as in the Act 1 love duet from Tosca. This is partly because Antonenko’s voice goes into another gear as it rises higher and takes on an exciting high-pressure intensity. It is also, less happily, because the accompaniments from Constantine Orbelian and the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra leech away tension at anything less than full pelt. Much of the slow music is dead on its feet and it takes all the singers’ zeal to breathe some life into it.
For all that, there is plenty to enjoy in vocal terms. Alieva spins a long-breathed, silvery line as she floats Leonora’s high-lying phrases in the Act 4 aria from Il trovatore and makes a convincing, lyrical Aida, at least on disc. Antonenko’s voice lacks Italianate openness, especially in the middle register, but his Radamès and Cavaradossi are impressive on a big scale. Both rise to their best for the extracts from Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. Although she is stretched as Lisa, Alieva gives her all and Antonenko is surely on his way to being the leading Herman of his generation.