I left home at 5:00 p.m., but arrived at the Kennedy Center at 6:45. One should never underestimate the traffic and all the wonderful secret side roads that your GPS might decide to take you. Anyway, I was just in time for dinner. So I went up to the Terrace level of Kennedy Center and had dinner of Pasta Cabonara with salmon, and chocolate mousse with a glass of champagne for dessert.
At dinner I could not help but notice that many people were dressed in a pretty funky way. Many were wearing red, which probably in their understanding made them look more Russian???
Anyway, I happened to have quite a seat. Row P turned out to be Row 13 in the Orchestra. Could one wish for any better? The house was packed and the crowd was brimming with impatience and excitement.
Then the lights went off and the wonderful National Philharmonic under the baton of Marco Armiliato (the conductor of La Fille du Regiment at the Met, remember?) played Overture to La Nozze di Figaro.
And then Dmitri came out onto the stage. Just as handsome as on TV and every DVD of him, except that maybe not so tall, rather medium height. His famous silver hair was longer this time, which was the cause of quite a debate among his fans during the intermission. A couple of middle-aged ladies were trying to decide which hair makes Dmitri look more handsome: the longer or the shorter one.
Usually Dmitry dresses simply but very tastefully: a black shirt and black pants. This time,however, he was on a more chic note, which in my personal opinion was a little overboard. He was wearing a black velvet tuxedo and a diamond ring on his right hand, a little bit out of his own style, but you know what?
The man sang his heart out and that, my friends, is a rare quality of opera singers, most of which save their resources for “better” occasions and opera houses.
I was really impressed by Ah tal colpa (the duet from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera).
What music! What dramatism! Verdi in full bloom. I have to admit that Dmitri had a couple of hoarse notes at the very end, but the rest was magic: pure, dramatic, powerful and overwhelmingly beautiful.
As an artist Dmitri treats music the way it really should be treated.
He sings even when he doesn’t!
Even when it’s just music playing you can see him sinking deeper and deeper into it, living and feeling every single note, breathing the air of his character.
He has always been like that. Check out any of his Cardiff ’89 You Tube clips. He was 28 then, but the way he sang Ombra mai fu… literary breathing every Handel’s note was so incredible, that he got his main competitor Bryn Terfel...among his fans.
The gem of the evening in my opinion was Dmitri’s encore Oi Ty Nochenka (Ой, ты ноченька), his famous a cappella song of a Russian cab driver (cab like in carriage, not taxi).
Anything I’ll say about it will not do any credit to Dmitri and will not even give you the slightest idea of what I heard. Because it has to be heard live.
Dmitri shook the audience with the deep amazing a cappella and moved every Russian heart with memories, sentiments, pain of love and loss, languish - everything that was ever felt by a Russian, who just like himself, or me, or anyone in the audience had to be away from his country.
At times he sang really softly, but it seemed like there was much more than one voice there: a voice and another inner melody of his soul. And then gradually his voice would build up all its volume and power, and again besides that voice you could hear so much more, as if the full orchestra was playing. And yet, it was just him, one voice, on its own, the voice of a man driving through a cold rainy night, pouring out his simple and dark, and yet beautiful and strong heart into that endless night.
When the recital was over, that song still rang in my ears. It rang in my ears all the way home, and it still does today.
Sondra Radvanovsky sang well. She has a very strong clean voice, but that’s about it. Strong and clean. No extras. She has a lot of charisma and the audience loved her right away. She also sang her heart out, which was truly appreciated.
I drove home but felt like I was flying. The impact that the recital made on me was really powerful and uplifting. I felt rejuvenated and strong from all the beauty I had taken in. And dashing through the dark night with Dmitri's song still ringing in my ears, I knew one thing: it's amazing now, but it's only going to be better in the morning. I will wake up shocked and stunned with the magnetic power of that voice and will start a new day, knowing that true artists still exist.
And that knowledge, my friends,will inspire me to teach more people about opera and help them see what I see and hear what I hear.
(The pictures above are pretty much self explanatory. The other gentleman is Marco Armiliato.)