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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La Traviata, Melodrama in three acts. Text by Francesco Maria Piave. (Sung in Russian)
First Performed 6 March 1858. Teatro La Fenice, Venice
Violetta Valery, Yelizaveta Shumskaya (sop); Alfredo Germont, Ivan Kozlovsky (ten); Giorgio Germont,
Pavel Lisitsian (bar); Flora Bervoix, Yelena Gribova (mezzo); Gastone, Y Filin (ten); Barone Douphol, Anatoli Yakhontov (bar)
USSR State Symphony Orcestra/Alexander Orlov.
Recorded 1947
Appendix: Pavel Lisitsian (bar) Verdi Arias
Il Trovatore, Il balen
Un ballo in maschera, Alla vita che t’arride
Un ballo in Maschera, Eri tu?
Aida, Ciel! Mio padre (with Natalia Sokolova, sop)

In this latest in Guild’s The Russian Legacy series Larry Friedman extols the virtues of the tenor Ivan Kozlovsky (1900-1993). He further suggests that he is young-sounding for his age suggesting uncertainty as to whether the recording was made in 1947 or 1954 (p.5 of the booklet). Incongruously, a few lines later, he notes that the conductor, Alexander Orlov, originally a White Russian prince, died in 1948! Given the normal exemplary standards of accuracy of the Guild booklets, I hope my reading of that is correct and not a sign of old age on my part.

Certainly, Ivan Kozlovsky has an agreeable light, slightly nasal, tenor voice. His careful phrasing in Un di felice (CD 1 tr. 5), soft singing and even tone are welcome virtues in any tenor. However, his reedy tone and tendency to near parlando the odd phrase are more questionable. So too is his tendency to abbreviate the ends of phrases (CD 1 tr. 12). The high note of Oh mio rimorso! is squeezed rather than ringing. As his Violetta, Yelizaveta Shumskaya (1905-1908) is a lightish lyric voice with some coloratura skills and with the virtue of dramatic vibrancy. In Violetta’s great act 1 scene (CD 1 trs. 6-8) there is not enough colour in her voice in É strano! Whilst she also tends to swell on the note, spoiling any smooth legato. Her diction is good.

As Germont pére Pavel Lisitsian (b.1911) doesn’t show much variation of tone but uses his voice expressively. His confrontation with Violetta (CD 1 tr. 14) brings out some of Yelizaveta Shumskaya’s best singing. Lisitsian’s Di Provenza (CD 1 tr. 20) is not impressive. He reaches for the high notes and his tone is rough. His singing of four Verdi baritone arias, (CD 2 trs. 20-23) also shows his rawness of tone and lack of legato, at least to my ears. It may be that he is not helped by singing in Russian whose glottal nature can be inimical to those virtues when transferred from their own genre to translations, particularly of the Italian and French repertoire. Although Eri tu (CD 2 tr. 21) appears to have been recorded at the same session as the previous Alla vita, the sound is distinctly thinner with the voice more recessed.

The overall recording quality is fair for its vintage. Given that listening to La Traviata in Russian is several steps beyond listening to it in English, in terms of how the voice sits on the music, this issue is only for collectors interested in the vocal traditions of Russia. Others can pass by, assured that they are missing no fantastic vocal or interpretative revelations.

Robert J Farr

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