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Redeemed by the final 35" of Russian music.
on 14 November 2013
The first hour of this outdoor concert in Red Square is devoted mainly to Verdi, with indifferent results considering the amount of hype heaped on: "Truly the concert of a lifetime . . . . musical magnificence . . ." This is baloney. Aside from the Rigoletto aria "Cortigiani, vil razza dannat" that concludes the opening hour of European arias where Hvorostovsky comes alive and gets fierce, the performances are merely competent. Fortunately, the concert comes to a conclusion with 35" of Russian music, including the final scene from Eugene Onegin where dramatic involvement infuses the singing but the impact is lessened by the singers being immobilized in their assigned places on stage. The final 12" of the concert are the most successful, given over to folk songs awash in lovely sentimentality: "Dark Eyes" and "Moscow Nights". Such folk songs should have been the backbone of the concert and things would have jelled better musically and in terms of establishing connections to the audience. The orchestra is more like a summer band than an orchestra and the choir is victimized by the generally poor accoustics that only acquit themselves well with the two soloists. The visuals are generally sharp and crisp, even without Blu-Ray, and the panorama of Red Square and the city beyond are soothing and agreeable as darkness descends. The elaborate camera trackings of near and far across the vast spaces are formulaic and not integrated into the musical experience. Anna Netrebko has put on weight and become sedentary, hampering her stage presence and her voice has lost its miraculous lustre. Hvorostovsky carries most of the concert by himself, but overall nothing even approximates the "musical magnificence" boasted of in the hype. Overall, this is a standard, nuts and bolts concert, far from exceptional. What remains in the memory are the final 12" of traditional Russian favorites that owe as much to the nostalgic content of the songs themselves and their secure place in the Russian soul, as to Hvorostovky's superb charisma and fine contribution from the stage during these 12".
Fortunately there IS an unforgettable and standout concert to be enjoyed with Domingo, Villazon + Netrebko at her very best and it's been described as "the rare kind of concert that gives rise to myths": Domingo/Netrebko/Villazon: The Berlin Concert [DVD] . It's in a superlative class all by itself. It exceeds all expectations and it will LAST for all time.