Hvorostovsky’s dramatic firepower ignites Arsht Center

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Florida Grand Opera’s Superstar Concert Series debuted Saturday night at the Adrienne Arsht Center with all the requisite vocal firepower, courtesy of Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

The new, modestly titled series is helmed by Judy Drucker, FGO’s artistic adviser and founder and former impresaria of the Concert Association of Florida, under which aegis the Siberian baritone was a perennial local visitor.

One admirable reason for the series is to fill a large gap on the local scene. Since Drucker left the Concert Association, the organization has shown no interest in bringing top singers to Miami audiences. More practically, now when detractors complain that FGO productions are too reliant on unproven talent and journeyman artists, FGO can answer by pointing to big names they are presenting in concert, like Hvorostovsky, Bryn Terfel and Renee Fleming (next season).

Still, a one-off concert of popular arias is no substitute for hearing major opera singers in their greatest roles in staged performances. Yet, realistically, few of the world’s top singers are likely to commit weeks to appearing in an opera production in Florida.  Half an operatic loaf is better than none, and at least with Drucker in charge, the quality of artists promises to be high, as was the case with Hvorostovsky’s rousing concert Saturday at the Knight Concert Hall.

The preternaturally handsome Siberian baritone sang with customary command and charisma, and his ample voice remains in solid condition, some thinness on top notes apart.

Even with Hvorostovsky’s artistic bona fides, and an equally impressive guest in Ekaterina Siurina, the Mozart first half proved rather mixed.  Siurina possesses an attractive soprano and sang with crystalline diction and, mostly, technical gleam.  She started a bit flat in Zeffiretti lusinghieri from Idomeneo, the aria feeling like a run-through.  Siurina righted the balance with a radiant Deh vieni non tardar from Figaro and was a charming Susanna in the duet with Hvorostovsky’s darkly authoritative Count.

Even with an incisive rendering of the tortuous Count’s aria from Figaro, Don Giovanni remains  Hvorostovsky’s choice role. He delivered an aptly insinuating Serenade that few maidens could resist and interacted delightfully with  Siurina in La ci darem la mano. The soprano soared in the vivacious  waltz song from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, tackling the coloratura flights with technique to spare.

In his early opera days, the baritone often seemed content to just sing and be handsome, yet Hvorostovsky has grown into a compelling actor and artist of great depth and power.  He dedicated a refined, beautifully sung rendering of Wolfram’s Song to the Evening Star from Wagner’s Tannhauser to the late Thomas Stewart.

Hvorostovsky met Siurina when, as a student, she played Gilda to his Rigoletto in Russia. The singers’ empathy and stage experience with these roles was clear in the vocal gleam and fizzing dramatic bite they brought to selections from Verdi’s dark drama.

 Siurina’s Caro nome could have used more expressive delicacy but was undeniably well sung, with pinpoint precision in the cadenza.

Hvorostovsky was simply terrific, as one would expect from one of his signature roles. The baritone threw off a blazing Cortigiani, the hunchbacked jester’s denunciation of the Mantua courtiers, veering from bitter, poisonous hatred to abject self-loathing, the singer’s face contorted in agony. Both singers were at their finest in the scene from Act 2, searing dramatically and singing with sensitivity, as the frightened Gilda tries to contain her father’s fury at her betrayal.

Encores included Hvorostovsky’s magnificent rendition of Yeletsky’s aria from Tchaikofsky’s Queen of Spades, a tender O mio babbino caro, from Siurina, and, less suitably for Hvorostovsky’s dark voice, the Merry Widow waltz. 

The uncredited orchestra consisted of principals from FGO’s current pit orchestra with several ringers and students. Playing verged from competent (a powerful Rigoletto Prelude) to downright scrappy, with maladroit wind and horn playing that undermined both singers in the Don Giovanni duet. Constantine Orbelian’s metrical Mozart didn’t help, though the American conductor did better with Verdi. 

NOTE TO ARSHT CENTER: What is the deal with the cheesy muslin curtains on either side of the Knight Concert Hall stage? It’s unclear what purpose they serve, but with a performing arts center that cost half a billion dollars, you’d think there’s a better way of achieving it than something that looks like it came from a Hialeah garage sale.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Hvorostovsky’s dramatic firepower ignites Arsht Center”

  1. Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 10:41 am by Dave R.

    So much for the Concert Association’s claim that there’s no market for vocal recitals. The concert hall was pretty much packed, and I’ve rarely seen as enthusiastic audience for a classical concert in South Florida. By the way, Concert Association, the audience was also young. The CAF should also note the warm, extended ovation Judy Drucker received. It was as if the audience was saying, “We miss you.” Which we do.

    As for the concert, I thought Hvorostovsky was very good but not great, I enjoyed listening to Siurina, I waa amazed by how Hvorostovsky convincingly became a hunchback during the Rigoletto arias, and I thought the orchestra was actually pretty good. My only gripe was with the programming: A first half entirely of Mozart was pretty dull, and if you hadn’t known better, you wouldn’t have known whose recital it was, Hvorostovsky or Siurina’s. They shared the stage 50-50.

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Sun Jan 11, 2009
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