Dmitri Hvorostovsky: Live recordings 1994-2016
The late Dmitri Hvorostovsky sang 10 roles at the Wiener Staatsoper. Nine of them are represented on this Orfeo disc – only his Iago is absent – captured live and released less than a year after the Siberian baritone’s death. They’re presented almost chronologically, ranging from Hvorostovsky’s early, refulgent tone in I puritani (1994) to his performances in 2016, when he returned to the stage after his first round of treatment for the brain cancer that killed him the following year.
It’s an interesting collection. The excerpts aren’t always the obvious ones: there’s no death of Posa (the great scena from Don Carlo which arguably won Hvorostovsky the Cardiff Singer of the World crown in 1989), but instead his little ballata with Eboli and Elisabetta; no ‘Cortigiani!’ from Rigoletto, but the Act 1 monologue followed by the long duet between the jester and his daughter, Gilda.
Some of the singing isn’t terrific (his Figaro is a bit hectoring – Rossini wasn’t natural territory), but Prince Yeletsky in The Queen of Spades (1999) was the perfect role for him: aristocratic, luscious, long legato lines, beautifully poised and noble. Hvorostovsky at his finest. His signature role, the haughty Onegin, is well represented, although he is placed far from the footlights in the introduction to the scene where he rejects Tatyana, a hazard of live recording.
His 2010 Rigoletto is heartfelt, although conductor Michael Güttler pushes the tempo insensitively faster than you sense either Hvorostovsky or Patrizia Ciofi is entirely comfortable with. There is an understandable deterioration in the voice by the time we get to 2016. His Germont sounds hollow and is up againt Marina Rebeka’s frosty Violetta, who is far too imperious in the long duet from Traviata. Nevertheless, there’s a rugged majesty to his Boccanegra in the Council Chamber scene, supported by Barbara Frittoli’s fruity Amelia and Ferruccio Furlanetto’s dogged Fiesco, theatrically conducted by Marco Armiliato. The disc closes with an impassioned ‘Eri tu’ from Un ballo in maschera, Renato being his final Staatsoper role debut.
Oliver Láng’s booklet note suffers from a few erroneous claims: Hvorostovsky didn’t sing Yeletsky there 73 times, but sang 73 performances in total at the Haus am Ring, according to the Staatsoper’s online archive; and his most-performed role was Germont père rather than Posa. However, there are interesting press quotes and reminiscences, charting Vienna’s love affair with this remarkable baritone.