Alieva and Antonenko: Verdi, Puccini, Tchaikovsky
Dinara Alieva (soprano), Aleksandrs Antoņenko (tenor)
Kaunas State Choir,
Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra/Constantine Orbelian
rec. July 2014, Philharmonic Hall, Kaunas, Lithuania
Full texts and English translations
DELOS DE 3477 [74:41]
This new Delos album of romantic arias and duets is performed by new generation opera singers soprano Dinara Alieva and tenor Aleksandrs Antoņenko. Just four operas, all masterpieces, are used in this collection: Verdi’s Aida and Il trovatore, Puccini’s Tosca and Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades.

In 2015 I reviewed a pair of releases from Azerbaijani Dinara Alieva. One titled Pace mio Dio - Italian Arias on Delos and the second Russian Songs and Arias on Naxos; both of which are superbly performed. Alieva is a singer of exceptional talent and Montserrat Caballé has championed her cause describing this award-winning soprano as “a singer who possesses the gift of heaven.” Now on Delos, Alieva has joined forces with Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antoņenko who in December 2015 was praised for his performances as Turiddu and Canio in Damiano Michieletto’s new production of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci relayed live to cinemas worldwide from the ROH, London.

Revelling in this dramatic repertoire the impassioned Antoņenko sings his heart out. Expressive and characterful the tenor has a secure lower register and a slightly sweet-edged and appealing top. Nevertheless, at times when he is under pressure, one feels a slight strain in the production of this highly committed performer. Antoņenko steps up to the plate for Radamès’ romanza Celeste Aida from Aida giving a focused performance, sustaining his line splendidly. Other highlights are the painter Cavaradossi’s romanzas Recondita armonia and E lucevan le stelle from Tosca. These are delivered with heartfelt passion. I also relished the tormented Herman’s aria Krasavitsa! Boginya! Angel! from The Queen of Spades - a fine example of the spinto tenor’s all-round prowess especially his attractive top register.

It has been satisfying to follow Alieva’s progress and with this challenging selection the soprano passes every test. Innately musical I especially admire the way she draws out the nuances from complicated opera characters and demonstrates her feeling for the words. I must single out the Aida aria Ritorna vincitor! for the remarkable dramatic intensity Alieva achieves with her portrayal of the Princess Aida’s personal turmoil. Enchanting is the tonal beauty, creamy and dusky-hued, conveyed in the famous aria Vissi d'arte from Tosca which also evinces remarkable control of her high register. Alieva’s convincing depiction of Tosca’s distress at Scarpia’s threats is both affecting and memorable.

A remarkable level of consistency is maintained throughout with all the arias and duets worthy of praise. Of the duets I savoured A yesli mne v otvet chasy probity from The Queen of Spades - a moving episode that leads to the vulnerable Lisa’s suicide. Unmistakable is the strong connection between the two singers whose voices blend to remarkable effect within the disturbing subtext of the scene. The Kaunas Choir has clearly been well drilled providing precision with the sense of the text also conveyed.

Presiding over this collection Constantine Orbelian provides ideal pace and dynamics. The playing from the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra is as excellent as I have come to expect.

The engineering team for Delos provide satisfactory sound achieving a most agreeable balance between voices and orchestra. Ideally I wanted just a touch more orchestral detail. Once again the Delos presentation is an example of good practice. Full texts and English translations are provided in the booklet together with a most helpful explanation of each aria’s plot context. Curiously unaccredited is the soloist in the role of Amneris who one assumes is a member of the Kaunas Choir.

The ever-improving duo Alieva and Antoņenko provide passion in spades in this thrilling Delos collection.

Michael Cookson

Previous review: Ralph Moore

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Aida (1871)
1. Celeste Aida [5.07]
2. Ritorna vincitor! [6.51]
3. In questa tomba [11.02]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
Tosca (1900)
4. Recondita armonia [4.03]
5. Vissi d'arte [3.03]
6. E lucevan le stelle [3.10]
7. Mario! Mario! Mario! ...Son qui! ... Mia gelosa! [11.58]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Il trovatore (1853)
8. Scene: Aria e miserere [12.58]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Queen of Spades (1890)
9. Herman’s aria: Krasavitsa! Boginya! Angel! [3.10]
10. Lisa’s aria: Uzh polnoch blizitsya [5.05]
11. Duet: A yesli mne v otvet chasy probity [8.10]

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