World-class Verdi sopranos and Verdi baritones are in short supply nowadays. American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky and Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky are among the elites in this area.
I have seen them separately as well as together in Il Trovatore. Radvanovsky recalls Callas with her intensity and spectacular high notes and Hvorostovsky has matinee idol looks and an elegant vocal style. The two have toured together and Delos has just released Verdi Opera Scenes, a recording of a concert they gave in Moscow in 2008 with the Philharmonia Orchestra of Russia, conducted by Constantine Orbelian.
In the recording the pair perform duet scenes from Verdi's Il Trovatore, “Un Ballo in Maschera” and “Simon Boccanegra.”
Verdi was an innovator by writing baritone-soprano duets while the convention at the time was tenor-soprano duets. He also created highly emotional scenes dealing with a variety of relationships. In the “Ballo” duet, a husband confronts his wife with her purported infidelity and threatens her with death. She pleads with him for a chance to see her son once more before her husband stabs her.
The “Simon Boccanegra” excerpt is the recognition scene in which the Genovese doge is reunited with the daughter he lost during her infancy. In Il Trovatore, the heavy, Count di Luna, promises beautiful Leonora that he will spare the life of her lover if she agrees to yield to him. These scenes are so intense that a listener might think they were taken from performances of the operas rather than a staged concert.
Hvorostovsky also sings “O Carlo, ascolta,” the death scene from Don Carlo. As encores Radvanovsky performs the beautiful “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka and a wrenching “Vissi D’arte” from Tosca (which she sang at the Met earlier this season) and Hvorostovsky contributes a seductive Serenade from Don Giovanni.The audience was equally enraptured by both singers, as was this listener. Delos helpfully includes an informative essay about the music, bios of the performers, and the lyrics with translations.
Radvanovsky and Hvorostovsky will be on stage together in Il Trovatore with tenor Marcelo Alvarez at the Metropolitan Opera on April 20, 23, 27, and 30.
Barry Bassis writes about music, theater, travel, and dining for various publications.