Many of the opera singers I grew up listening to on the Met broadcasts and eventually saw in various opera houses around the world have joined the roster of the angelic choir. Some had long retired but others were still in their prime. I think particularly of my darling Daniela Dessì, Lucia Popp, Arlene Auger, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and Jonan Botha – just to name a few who were taken from the stage too early by cancer. This morning the name of the great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky was added to that list.
I only saw him perform live on one occasion – Il Trovatore at the Arena in Verona; he was very much the go-to-Verdi-baritone of the era. However I never really thought that he was most comfortable in that fach – the velvet was there, the power was there, the drama was there, but somehow it didn’t always mesh. He seemed most home in the music of his homeland – his Eugene Onegin was unsurpassed and his Prince Yeletsky in Pique Dame made you wonder what the hell Lisa was thinking in rejecting him.
In 2015 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and cancelled performances while he was receiving treatment. He reappeared at the Met in September of that year and continued to give recitals. I thought that this excerpt from Songs of the War Years, a concert programme he gave in Moscow and St Petersburg in September of 2016 would be a fitting tribute to this great singer.
Zhuravli (Cranes) is based on a poem by the Dagestani poet Rasul Gamzatov and set to music by composer Yan Abramovich Frenkel. For Russians it has become a symbol of the soldiers lost in the Second World War. A more complete history can be found here.
Rest in Peace –Покойся с миром
On this day in 1837: Canadian journalist and politician William Lyon Mackenzie calls for a rebellion against the United Kingdom in his essay “To the People of Upper Canada”, published in his newspaper The Constitution.