By Lawrence Budmen

Florida Grand Opera initiated its new Superstar Concert Series with a night of glorious song on January 10 at the Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall. Programmed by legendary Miami impresaria Judy Drucker, the opera’s new Senior Artistic Advisor, these gala programs will feature the crème de la crème of the vocal world.

Siberian baritone and matinee idol Dmitri Hvorostovsky was the opening event’s featured attraction. Hvorostovsky’s darkly luminous baritonal compass is an instrument of striking depth and wondrous beauty. Welded to a charismatic personality, this baritone’s artistry encompasses wide ranging operatic repertoire – from the classicism of Mozart to Russian romantic scores and the passionate Italianate lyricism of Verdi.

Hvorostovsky was not the evening’s only stellar vocalist. The enchanting Russian soprano Ekaterina Siurina brought pointed, agile coloratura and subtle artistry to dazzling solos and duets with her handsome countryman. Siurina’s winning musicality was particularly striking in the program’s all Mozart first half. In Deh vieni non tardar, Susanna’s aria, from The Marriage of Figaro, Siurina traced Mozart’s finely etched line in a kaleidoscope of lyrical cosmos. Her silky vocalism in Zeffiretti lusingieri, the captive Princess Ilia’s solo, from the opera seria Idomeneo approached that elusive standard of perfection – a gorgeous outpouring of multi-layered tonal hues.

She joined Hvorostovsky for the pensive Susanna-Count Almaviva duet from Le Nozze di Figaro, sung with dulcet realms of aural velvet. A delightful traversal of La ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni took songful flight. This Russian duo produced great Mozart singing. Hvorostovsky’s solo turns channeled Count Almaviva’s malevolence with ringing fervor and Don Giovanni’s Serenade in rich, alluring vocal lava.

Constantine Orbelian was an attentive conductor, accompanying the singers astutely with subtly calibrated dynamics. The orchestral ensemble responded incisively to Orbelian’s vigorous reading of the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and gave appropriate weight to the hair raising drama of the Don Giovanni curtain raiser.

Hvorostovsky’s deep lower register exuded richness and power in Wolfram’s Song to the Evening Star from Wagner’s Tannhauser, dedicated to the late baritone Thomas Stewart. Siurina’s brilliant, stylishly French rendition of Juliet’s waltz song from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette was a bona fide crowd pleaser.

Hvorostovsky turned Rigoletto’s Cortigiani (from the Verdi opera) into an impassioned outburst of anger and lyrical anguish. Gilda in Rigoletto has been one of Siurina’s calling card roles. The soprano has sung the tragic heroine in such celebrated theaters as New York’s Metropolitan Opera, London’s Covent Garden, Berlin’s Deutsche Opera and the Opera National in Paris. Her elegant version of Gilda’s Caro nome was finely spun, capped by dazzling trills. In the concluding scene of Act II from the Verdi masterpiece, Siurina combined vocal glamour and dramatic pathos in Gilda’s solo, followed by a brilliant, rousing version of the duet Si vendetta – the singers declaiming Verdi’s text with intense passion.

A large, cheering audience demanded encores and the artists did not disappoint. Siurina offered an enticing, vocally light O mio babbino caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. Hvorostovsky drew full blooded tonal colors in Prince Yeletsky’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame – the baritone’s signature piece. The waltz from Lehar’s Merry Widow found Siurina and Hvorostovsky dancing as well as singing with lilting élan. This nod to the Vienesse New Year was the perfect conclusion to a festive evening and Judy Drucker’s triumphant return to the Miami concert scene.


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