Thursday, November 23, 2017
Dmitri Hvorostovsky is dead at 55
Hvorostovski learned to play the Metropolitan Opera, a gigantic house that scares many European-trained singers, and where he sang 180 performances. When I first heard him live his voice, though compact, beautiful and secure, sounded small: a perfect voice for a European opera house. His breathing between phrases was the loudest I had ever heard. His approach to a score, however, sounded like no one else: always the tell-tale sign of a great artist. As his voice matured his instrument became stronger, more secure, but the original beauty of his tone always remained. His performances at the MET, before his illness, were outstanding, and his lieder recitals always revealed a consummate artist comfortable being accompanied just with a piano. His performances of Russian folk songs and popular romantic songs were very important to him. In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, he remembered a concert he gave at the age of 22 in a bread factory in central Siberia, near the town of Krasnoyarsk, his birthplace, in below-freezing weather. The audience, wearing fur hats and warm boots, was in tears.
No one looked like him (his hair turned completely white by the time he was 30), no one sounded like him. Perhaps the complex role of Eugene Onegin, one of his specialties, suited him so well because he was as complex as the title role of that great Alexander Pushkin poem. Now that he has entered immortality, he will be missed.