- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, “War, Peace, Love and Sorrow” (Delos)

The opera world was shocked by news last year that Dmitri Hvorostovsky had brain cancer. But the beloved Russian baritone with the velvety voice and phenomenal breath control carried on, canceling some appearances but performing when he could.

“War, Peace, Love and Sorrow,” his new release recorded last October during a break in his chemotherapy, reaffirms that he sounds as good as ever.

Unfortunately, apart from reassuring his fans, there isn’t much about this album that makes artistic sense. As the title suggests, it’s a hodgepodge of scenes and arias, some of which the baritone had recorded before.

Still, there’s much to enjoy. The magical opening from Prokofiev’s “War and Peace” finds him in terrific form, moving from dejection to hope as he overhears Natasha sing of her joy in life. This is followed by excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “Mazeppa” and “Iolanta.”

More intriguing are two arias from Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades.” Hvorostovsky, 53, made his Metropolitan Opera debut in that work in 1995 as the lovesick Prince Yeletsky, but here he takes on the role of the brash, cynical Count Tomsky with invigorating results.

Best is the finale of “The Demon” by Anton Rubinstein. Written in 1871, the opera has all but dropped from sight outside of Russia. If this 26-minute scene is any indication, it deserves reconsideration. And with its long melodic lines, the music is particularly well-suited to Hvorostovsky’s talents.

He is ably partnered here, as in the “War and Peace” excerpt, by soprano Asmik Grigorian. The State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia is conducted by Constantine Orbelian.


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