Dmitri Hvorostovsky: Portrait
One of the most popular opera singers to emerge from the former Soviet Union, baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky is equally recognizable for his striking mane of prematurely silver hair and for the dark lyricism of his voice. In this two-disc sampler of his recordings -- mostly dating from the 1990s -- Hvorostovsky is heard to great effect in a wide variety of material, split almost equally between Russian and Italian music. Despite his heritage, the latter is just as indispensable to his artistry as the former. Verdi's baritone roles suit Hvorostovsky's instrument to perfection, whether it's the paternal Germont's "Di Provenza il mar" from La Traviata or Rodrigo's dying words from Don Carlos. But the earlier bel canto arias of Bellini and Donizetti are just as mellifluous here, making palpable the influence of the Italian composers upon Russian opera. From the latter repertoire, naturally, come many of this set's essential highlights, including the incomparably ardent lyrical outbursts from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and Queen of Spades, and a rich characterization from Rubinstein's The Demon. Also of note is a heartrending duet with mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina from Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride -- a track which also happens to be featured on the Borodina Portrait released simultaneously with this one. The second disc here is even wider-ranging: Russian folk and art songs, including Mussorgsky's potent Songs and Dances of Death, plus a detour to the Italian Baroque. Culling many of the finest recorded performances from a very strong career, this Portrait is extremely attractive yet absolutely true to life.