Tuesday 24 April 2012

Asmik Grigorian

Last night we attended a private recital by the terrific soprano, Asmik Grigorian, accompanied by Roger Vignoles. Grigorian was born in Lithuania of Armenian Lithuanian heritage and her experience so far has been in the Baltic states and in Eastern Europe. She made her stage debut in 2004 in Georgia and in 2010 performed all 3 main female roles in Puccini's Il Trittico with Latvian National Opera at the Riga Opera Festival. More recently she has performed Marie in Wozzeck at Opera Cologne,  Rusalka at the Komische Oper Berlin,  Donna Elvira in Riga (you can see her Donna Elivira on YouTube) and Lisa in Pique Dame in Graz

The first half of her recital was devoted to 12 songs by Rachmaninov. Of these, only 1 was familiar to me, Ne poj, krasavica, prim me (Do not sing to me again), setting Pushkin. Apart from Vessenije vody (Spring Waters) and Siren (Lilacs) the songs were all downbeat, generally meditating on failed or lost love; even when not strictly down-beat the material was always rather dramatic. Rachmaninov's voice was unmistakable, you could guess the composer after the first few notes and Grigorian seemed to respond to the songs. Looking and sounding wonderfully dramatic, singing from memory, she gave highly characterised performances which turned some of the songs into mini operatic arias and ensured that the audience was vividly aware of the subject.

Grigorian as a vivid, dramatic voice; I suspect that her operatic repertoire will gradually extend into more dramatic roles. Though Slavic in tone, with an attractive vibrato, she has a nicely focused tone with a solid core and uses the voice expressively.

In the second half we had 2 Tchaikovsky songs, Snova kak prezhede odin (Once again all alone) and the well known Sred shumnogo bala (In the midst of the ball). Both beautifully done, with the lightness of texture of the ball nicely captured. The final Tchaikovsky item was Lisa's Aria from The Queen of Spades,  impassioned and engrossingly dramatic; this is a role that I'd like to see Grigorian in on stage.

Finally we had a group of songs from her native countries. The Armenian Krunk (Crane), by Komitas Vardapet (1869 - 1935), a song which has great emotionally significance from the Armenian diaspora. Vardapet  is regarded as the founder of modern Armenian classical music. Then a pair of Lithuanian items; an aria from Dalia by Balys Dvarionas (1904 - 1972) and Mano sieloj siandien svente by Tollat-Kelpsa.  Dvarionas studied in Lithuania and in Leipzig, where his teachers included Karg-Elert. His opera Dalia was first performed in 1959.

I have to confess that none of these three were familiar to me, but given such committed and impassioned performances, I was interested to hear more.

Roger Vignoles accompanied with his usual discreet brilliance, showing immense sympathy for the songs and providing the singer with fine support.

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