Veronika Dzhioeva: Ritorna vincitor!
Though it clocks it at just under an hour, there’s plenty of bang for your buck in this high-voltage recital by a rising soprano who hails from the disputed area of South Ossetia. A graduate of the St Petersburg Conservatory, Veronika Dzhioeva has the impressive breath control and cutting edge of some of the finest Russian-trained singers but with a warmth in her tone that might reflect her roots in the fiery Caucasus.
It’s hard to argue with her impressive weaponry, particularly when the starting gun is fired and out pops ‘Vieni t’affretta’, from Verdi’s Macbeth, the first item on the album. There’s a juicy roundness to the tone, but the right snarl on Lady Macbeth’s lips. Here Dzhioeva introduces us to her coppery lower register, as well as some keen agility.
She holds excellent cards for Verdi. The two big scenes from Aida are very well done: ‘Ritorna vincitor’ shows how skilfully she can sustain a line, while ‘O patria mia’ is ardently spun, although that notorious high C is a bit of a squeeze. There is a nice lilt and general nobility to Leonora’s opening scene from Il trovatore, ‘Tacea la notte placida’, but Dzhioeva has to sprint from the aria to the cabaletta (no budget to cover Leonora’s maidservant, Ines, clearly). She shows her onstage experience with Verdi’s Amelia in ‘Ma dall’arido stelo divulsa’ from Un ballo in maschera, but it’s an odd number to finish the album with.
And it’s the expressive range and variety – or, rather, lack thereof – that lets things down overall. The Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra are briskly steered by Constantine Orbelian: the playing is fine (a squally oboe in that Ballo number notwithstanding) but some atmosphere is lacking. Outside of Verdi, Dzhioeva is sometimes dramatically found wanting. ‘Io son l’umile ancella’ from Adriana Lecouvreur is grand and sumptuous; but when she has to dig into a real story – ‘Un bel dì’ from Madama Butterfly or ‘La mamma morta’ from Andrea Chénier – she doesn’t carry you with her. Paring things down, finding a more vulnerable side to her voice, would help.
The booklet notes are rather skimpy, and it is peculiar that Orbelian, billed as ‘the singer’s dream collaborator’, is given a much longer biography than the soprano.