His audience was enraptured (even if half of them were busy sending emails or taking photographs)
Getting to the Barbican can be hell and I seem to be perpetually running down that never-ending tunnel five minutes before a concert starts. This time I’m sprinting; I can’t miss one of the most anticipated recitals this month, that of the James Bond of Opera, Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
It's only when I tear through the entrance I remember what a wonderful place this is, a perfectly balanced acoustic concert hall, where I have seen the greats perform: Les Arts Florissants, Andreas Scholl and Cecilia Bartoli…
It’s a top class venue and with the newly appointed Angela Dixon as head of Music, we might see a little more of an injection of contemporary music, encouraging more exciting cross-genres and fusion that the Barbican do so well. Exciting times ahead, but what excites me most this season at the Barbican is the Beethoven series including a cycle of symphonies conducted by Riccardo Chailly. How lucky we are.
Back to the Silver Fox Hvorostovsky. I remember when he won Cardiff Singer of the World back in 1989. He is shining brightly twenty years on. Having just stepped in for an ailing Leo Nucci at Covent Garden’s Traviata (supposedly at four hours' notice) he could afford to gloat. His beauty of tone has such resonating focus and power, yet possesses such warmth. He is a flowing wall of sound, particularly in his opening Faure songs which may have lacked a little expression but which had his audience enraptured (even if half of them were busy sending emails or taking photographs).
Half the audience was Russian and they were out in force to support their Siberian Hero. So what’s a little ‘Facetime’ with Vlad in Moscow to prove they were in the third row watching Dmitri sing?
Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing Ombra Mai Fu by Handel
Three announcements later and they managed to put down their Swarovski Blackberries and listen. Songs by Taneyev in his native Russian were really when Dmitri opened up showing a touching sensitivity. The melancholy of pre-revolutionary Russia was engrained. ‘Reveal, reveal to me my fortune! My Lady, your end is at the guillotine’ from the song ‘Menuet’ was powerful but the song Stalaktity (stalctites) was certainly the most beautifully sung (and accompanied by Ivari Ilja) so much so that people almost waited till the end of the last chord before clapping.
Look, I am an old fashioned girl and a stickler for musical respect. In my day (and still nowadays at the Wigmore Hall) there is this novel practice of not applauding between songs in a song cycle and yes, not having an all out coughing/shuffling fit between orchestral movements. It’s called… reflection.
No matter, all is forgiven when Dmitiri smiles his broad beautiful smile. He could sing the phonebook and we would all adore it. Although godlike in presence, he is often childlike in his mannerisms and puts across a touching humility. His final delivery of Six Romances by Tchaikovsky was full of colour, sensitivity and vulnerability. As an encore, we were treated to wonderful Spanish and Rachmaninov songs perfectly in tune with a distant Nokia ring from the third row.
by Melinda Hughes