With a name like Aida it seems entirely appropriate that its bearer should become an opera singer. But, as it happens, Verdi’s famous heroine does not feature in this wonderful debut album by an artist born in 1987 in the remote Russian province of Tatarstan. Instead, we first have two fairly familiar - and highly enticing - ‘display’ arias from the French repertoire : ‘Ah ! Je veux vivre’ from Gounod’s ‘Romeo et Juliette’ and the Bell Song from Delibes’s ‘Lakme’. Then come a succession of arias and songs from the singer’s homeland. I confess to having been attracted to this disc by one particular item, The Queen of Shemakha’s hauntingly beautiful ‘Hymn To The Sun’ from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera ‘The Golden Cockerel', which Garifullina performs with a dreamy refulgence. But there are other pieces that are equally entrancing : ‘Maria’s Lullaby’ from Tchaikovsky’s opera ‘Mazeppa’ and ‘Alluki’, a popular Tatar song, are but two examples. As seems to be the norm nowadays the accompanying booklet is replete with the posed photographs of the assuredly glamorous artist and much comment by her on her chosen repertoire. Some of the items, incidentally, comewith the sometimes dreaded words ‘arranged by…’ and one critic has referred to these having ‘too much syrup’. This may be true but listeners who are not musical purists may be happy to let that go. I think I shall return to this disc rather often, especially to wallow unashamedly in the seductive charms of The Queen of Shemakha.
Garifullina's voice is interesting and and works very well with Russian and Soviet music, but unfortunately it doesn't suit French opera. So the "Bell song" on this recording is a miserable, almost unlistenable fail, and one wonders why did producers include them. Juliette's famous aria is performed better, but also has its problems for Garifullina's voice is a bit restrained und sounds unnatural there too. Obviously French opera of the 19th century is not her thing. Another problem is that the label makes her sing "orientalistic" exotic material. Probably because of her "Asian" name, she must sing "Song of India" (an aria written for male voice, actually), something called "Alluki", arias of Shamakhanskaya from "The Golden Cockerel" and the borderline Soviet kitsch "Midnight in Moscow" (which is, I must admit, performed beautifully). In the end the whole thing sounds like random bits and pieces, which are mostly skilfully and beautifully performed.