The great Russian baritone died on Nov 22, 2017, two and a half years after announcing that he was suffering from a brain tumor. He was born in 1962 and escaped a difficult environment by virtue of his singing ability. The Siberian singer was clearly the best Italian style baritone of his era. His voice was supple and distinctive with an easy top, essential for any singer who wishes to base his career on Verdi’s great baritone roles – the finest body of work written for that vocal range.
Hvorostovsky first achieved international renown when he won the Concours International de Chant in Paris in 1988 followed by the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in Wales the following year. He beat out Bryn Terfel in the latter event.
Per me giunto…O Carlo ascolta from Verdi’s Don Carlo and Eri tu from the same composer’s Un Ballo in Maschera were recorded in 1989. They show Hvorostovsky’s affinity for Verdi’s music. Though the baritone didn’t focus on Verdi until later in his career.
His Met debut, in 1995, was as Prince Yeletsky in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. He gave 182 performances with the company, but didn’t get to Verdi in New York until 2001 when he sang the elder Germont in La Traviata. Thereafter, the majority of his Met appearances were in the big standard Verdi roles.
Alcoholism affected his performances in the late 90s. He said he didn’t lick the problem until 2001. This addiction appears to have broken his first marriage.
Though he never sang any Rossini opera at the Met, this 1998 concert performance of Largo al factotum 1998 from The Barber of Seville shows that he would have been a compelling Figaro.
Il balen from a staged performance of Il Trovatore in London during the 2002 season is a sensitive and nuanced reading. Cortigiani vil razza 2005 was recorded in 2005. It was also the piece he sang at his final Met appearance last May at the company’s gala celebrating 50 years at Lincoln Center. Ditte alla giovine from La Traviata is from a 2009 Moscow concert with Renée Fleming. The soprano is in marvelous form; she gives an emotionally compelling reading of the great duet. Di Provenza from the same opera was recorded in 2015 recorded the year his tumor was diagnosed. The last Italian aria is from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. It’s a studio recording that shows off Hvorostovsky’s brilliant top. Il Prologo
The baritone was quite comfortable in French opera, even if his French diction was dipped in Russian caviar. Avant de quitter ces lieux is from a 2005 Met performance. He interpolates a high A flat at the end of the aria. Hvorostovsky is joined by Jonas Kaufmann in this concert reading of Au fond du temple saint from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. The Toreador Song is from a Moscow concert given in 2015. It was one of the baritone’s last public appearances.
The premature death of this charismatic and gifted artist is a blow not only to his family and friends , but to the entire world of opera. We are lucky to have the many recordings and videos he left behind as an enduring testimony to his great skill and charm.