Dmitri Hvorostovsky: a Siberian singing sensation

While 2011 is still young, it’s already been a banner year for Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

The great Siberian bass-baritone has been in New York, singing the title role of Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” at the Metropolitan Opera. Critics and audiences alike have been lavish with praise; the New York Times called him “a magnificent Simon.”

Bay Area audiences could hardly be surprised — Hvorostovsky sang the role at San Francisco Opera in 2008. Now he’s returning to The City for a performance on a slightly smaller scale: a one-night only recital Sunday in Davies Hall.

Presented by the San Francisco Symphony and accompanied by Estonian pianist Ivari Ilja, Hvorostovsky will sing works by Faure, Liszt, Taneyev and Tchaikovsky.

In a call from New York, he said the music represents a radical shift from Verdi.

“It’s going to be the first time I’ve performed this program on tour, and I hope it’s going to stay with me for a few years,” said Hvorostovsky. “It’s a fantastic program, and a new experience for me. A lot of it is to be sung in French, which is not necessarily a singer’s friendly language. I speak a little French, but to sing it is a task for me.”

Included are selections from Liszt’s “Tre Sonetti di Petrarca,” Faure’s “Apres un reve” and “Fleure jetee,” Taneyev’s “Menuet” and Tchaikovsky’s late-life “Six Romances.”

For Hvorostovsky, the French music represents an exciting departure from Verdi. He cites Liszt’s settings of the Petrarch sonnets. “They’re beautifully written, and quite operatic,” he says.

The program’s Russian music represents his comfort zone, although, surprisingly, this is Hvorostovsky’s first time with Taneyev’s music. He says he’s fallen in love with the composer’s “Menuet.”

“It’s quite unpredictable,” he says, “extravagant, and very sardonic. It’s like one of the Mephistophele songs.”

Tchaikovsky’s “Romances” will conclude the program. “It’s his last opus,” he notes, “beautiful music, which is joyful and sad at the same time.”

Hvorostovsky will return to the Met in two Verdi roles this spring — he’ll appear in “Il Trovatore” in April, and performances of “Don Carlo” on the company’s Japanese tour in May.

But he says he’s looking forward to his recital in San Francisco — and the thrill of exploring a new repertoire.

“As an artist, you need to challenge yourself from time to time,” he says. “You take it on, you do it and you become a better man.”

IF YOU GO

Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Presented by San Francisco Symphony  

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $15 to $83
Contact: (415) 864-6000 or visit www.sfsymphony.org

artsClassical Music & OperaentertainmentSan FranciscoSan Francisco Symphony

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