Why don't more singers use the full dynamic potential of their voices? Ildar Abdrazakov's recital at La Scala was a lesson in dynamic contrast, bewitching his audience with long-held and perfectly controlled wisps of sound, and then thrilling them with full throttle blasts coloured by his fine bass timbre. Add to that his beautiful phrasing, superbly enunciated Italian and engaging personality and the result was a concert to remember… this time, for all the right reasons!
He, too, was pleased to return to La Scala's stage which witnessed his early performances when he was in his mid-twenties, but the 40-year-old hasn't sung here for the last decade: “It's good to be here”, he said before starting his programme.
An all-Russian first part – Glinka, Rubinstein, Mussorgsky – included a beautifully executed performance of Rubinstein's phenomenally tricky ninth song in his cycle of Twelve Persian Love Songs. The audience was spellbound with Abdrazakov's ever increasing piani as he rose into falsetto. An exquisite song, exquisitely sung.
The second half of the programme hopped around the Italian composers from Donizetti to the slightly slushy Cesare Andrea Bixio, assigning them one song each. This panorama of canzoni allowed Abdrazakov to show off his mastery of the Italian language and style, something so rare for singers from Eastern Europe. Donizetti's Viva il matrimonio was dedicated to Abdrazakov's new wife, and Zandonai's La Cinquecento e nove “I dedicate to all Italians. In Russia we have the Lada, but you gave the world the FIAT!” Zandonai's song, which celebrates the FIAT 509, a model sold in the 1920s, had Abdrazakov grabbing his music stand like a steering wheel. Leoncavallo's Ave Maria was captivating, again making the most of the communicative power of softly whispered notes… in hora mortis nostrae.
He was accompanied by the equally communicative Mzia Bakhtouridze, who is getting to be a La Scala regular (and favourite).
Generous encores – the fiendishly difficult aria and cabaletta from Ernani as well as those from Attila – were wound up with an impressively dramatic quick-fire rendition of The Barber of Seville's La calunnia.
N.B. Ildar Abdrazakov isn't down for La Scala's next opera season.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.