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This week's Opera Daily features Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili singing Rimsky-Korsakov
👋 Hello to the new Opera Daily subscribers who have joined us this week. I hope you’re sitting on a plushy couch with a warm beverage and enjoying your weekend.
Nothing excites me more than a singer that GOES FOR IT.
And let me tell you, when it comes to delivering; nobody does it quite like the Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili (pronounced rahtch-vel-ish-VEEL-ee). If you want proof, start with this video of Anita singing "Stride la vampa" from Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2017–18 season.
What’s happening during this aria?
At the beginning of Act 2, Azucena recalls the fire that killed her mother in the aria “Stride la vampa” (which translates to “the flames are roaring”). The crackling fire triggers her memory in this aria. She describes her drive to see vengeance on Count di Luna.
I recently stumbled upon another video of Anita singing an aria from Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar's Bride, and my entire existence has been shooketh. Her voice is like butter, but instead of melting on a warm piece of toast, it’s melting my heart with every note.
I texted a friend the recording, and I said, "Russian composers really know what they are doing when it comes to a musical line, don't they?!?”. And he responded, “Yes. And it doesn't hurt that she (Anita) is an exceptional singer — the best mezzo on the planet right now.”
I think we are both right.
🎧 Listen here (4 minute listen): Mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili singing "Lyubasha's Song" from Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride
“Lyubasha's Song” from Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride
The aria is sung by the character Lyubasha, a former mistress of Grigory Gryaznoy, a nobleman who is one of the main characters in the opera.
Gryaznoy is about to marry Marfa, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Lyubasha, still in love with Gryaznoy, is consumed by jealousy and grief at the thought of him being with another woman. She decides to attend the wedding and confront Gryaznoy, and sings "Lyubasha's Song."
In the aria, Lyubasha expresses her despair and anguish over her unrequited love for Gryaznoy. She describes her pain at being cast aside by him and her longing to be loved again. The aria is a powerful and emotional soliloquy showcasing Lyubasha's character and her desperation and hopelessness.
With her rich, velvety voice and impeccable phrasing, Rachvelishvili perfectly captures the raw emotion and turmoil of Lyubasha. As she sings of her love for Gryaznoy, the audience is transported to the depths of her despair, feeling every ounce of her heartache and pain.
One of Rachvelishvili's most notable opera roles is the title character in Carmen, which she has performed in productions around the world.
According to the conductor Riccardo Muti, Rachvelishvili is “without doubt the best Verdi mezzo-soprano today on the planet”. Here she is singing the role of Amneris with Dmitry Belosselskiy (Ramfis) in an excerpt from the Act 4 Judgment Scene, Verdi’s Aida.
“When singers are young, they either lack the necessary confidence or they have too much of it. And she had the right mixture.”
— Conductor, Daniel Barenboim (on Anita Rachvelishvili)
Thank you for reading (and listening), and feel free to reply with feedback or leave a comment.
Please have a wonderful week,
PS. If you missed last week’s selection, we discussed the role of the opera masterclass in training and development.
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