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Anita Rachvelishvili (mezzo-soprano)
Barbara Massaro (soprano)
Coro del Teatro Municipale di Piacenza
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Della Rai/Giacomo Sagripanti
rec. 2017, Auditorium Rai di Torino and Palais Garnier, Paris
SONY CLASSICAL 19075808752 [53:57]

This is Anita Rachvelishvili’s debut album with Sony Classical and the title of the recital is simply her name. She was born in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1984 and rose to fame in 2009, when Daniel Barenboim (at the time music director of La Scala in Milan) selected her to open the La Scala season, performing the title role in Bizet’s Carmen, alongside no less than German tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Don José. She sang the role to great critical and public acclaim. Since then she has never looked back, singing regularly at some of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, such as The Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the Arena di Verona and the Royal Opera House in London, where she has appeared in Bizet’s Carmen and Verdi’s Il Trovatore.

Rachvelishvili’s mezzo is a powerful, sensual voice with a dark edge – qualities that make her very effective as Carmen. However exciting and alluring her voice is, this recital offers very little novelty. Some or most of the pieces have been recorded before by other mezzos, notably in recent years: the Bizet and the Saint-Saëns by Elīna Garanča, another extraordinary mezzo with one of the most beautiful voices around today.

I first saw and heard Anita Rachvelishvili as Konchakova in the Met’s production of Borodin’s Prince Igor in March 2014. Her voice and performance totally captivated me. After that I was at the Royal Opera House, when she performed in Carmen and later, in Il Trovatore, as mentioned above, and again found her voice outstanding and her acting very convincing. So I must admit I was mildly disappointed with this CD. I found no fire, no exuberance and not as much power as her voice displays on stage. The Seguidilla and especially the Habanera from Carmen are extremely well sung, with great musical and technical accuracy, but lack the sensuality and the mix of danger, love and passion that she was able to convey on stage, when singing the role. Again Saint-Saëns Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix from Samson et Dalila is exceptionally well sung, accurate and technically very good, but it lacks emotion. I searched, but the tenderness was not there. On the other hand in the renditions of Lyubasha’s Song from Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride and in Misi sakheli Tinatin from Dimitri Arakishvili’s The Legend of Shota Rustaveli (the only piece by a composer from her home land of Georgia), the magic is there – the power, the passion, the seduction are all there, even though she sings in languages I don’t understand. The Verdi pieces, the Mascagni as well as the Letter Aria from Massenet’s Werther or, as indeed all the works Rachvelishvili offers in this recital, are very well sung. Technically there is hardly anything to point out. She is excellent, accurate and nails the high and especially the lower notes to perfection. For the first time – and something that wasn’t there live on stage – in one of two of the high notes her vibrato goes into a slight wobble. I hope this is nothing to worry about, though, and that it will not become more pronounced, as it could then spoil some of her performances. Apart from this minor issue, her technique is always spot on. Her diction is clear most of the time and it is obvious she’s very comfortable in her native Georgian or in Russian, though her French is a little muffled and I preferred her enunciation and pronunciation in Italian. She is solidly supported by the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, conducted by Giacomo Sagripanti. The Coro del Teatro Municipale di Piacenza that appear in the Veil Song from Verdi’s Don Carlo and in the Habanera, are also good and support Rachvelishvili rather effectively.

The CD package is very attractive in simple black and white, banking to great effect on Ms Rachvelishvili’s exotic looks. The booklet contains a nice article by Hugo Shirley as an introduction to the recital and with extracts of his conversation with her, which makes for interesting, pleasant reading. Additionally it has all the texts in the original with English, German and French translations, except when the original language is French, where the translations are then only in English and German. In a rather touching and poignant gesture Anita Rachvelishvili dedicates the CD to the memory of her great friend and manager Bruce Zemsky, who died on 6th August 2017, aged only sixty-two.

There is some very good, indeed excellent singing on this CD and Rachvelishvili’s voice is always gratifying, but in most pieces the emotion, the sentiment are to my mind just not there. For me this made this recital less pleasurable than what it would otherwise have been. It doesn’t mean to say that it is not worth having, on the contrary it definitely is. If you have seen and heard Ms Rachvelishvili live, you may be a little disappointed, however if you never did and this CD is your first introduction to her glorious voice, you will find much to enjoy.

Margarida Mota-Bull

Margarida writes more than just reviews, check it online at
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Carmen, Act I: Près des remparts de Séville (Seguidilla) [2:04]
Carmen, Act I: L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera) [4:14]

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Samson et Dalila, Act I: Printemps qui commence [5:37]
Samson et Dalila, Act II: Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix [5:19]

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Il Trovatore, Act II: "Condotta ell'era in ceppi" [4:33]
Don Carlo, Act II: Canzone del velo: Nei giardin del bello [4:15]
Don Carlo, Act IV: O don fatale [4:16]

Jules MASSENET 1842-1912)
Werther, Act III: Je vous écris de ma petite chambre (Letter Aria) [7:00]

Dimitri ARAKISHVILI (1873-1953)
The Legend of Shota Rustaveli: Cavatina of Queen Tamar [2:23]

Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Tsar's Bride, Act I: Lyubasha's Aria: You will pay [4:26]

Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria rusticana: Voi lo sapete, o mamma [3:01]

Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Sapho, Act III: O ma lyre immortelle [6:50]



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