VERDI

Deutsche Grammophon continues to bring today’s most outstanding singers to the fore with all-Verdi solo debut album from Ildar Abdrazakov, set for international release on August 16

“Ildar Abdrazakov reinforced his status as the most glorious Attila of today, assuming an enviable place among the illustrious lyric basses to have broached the role in the last fifty years; how could anyone resist that dark, liquid legato, or that honeyed phrasing, which he uses equally effectively to express the doubts that torment the warrior king and the majesty of his power.” Diapason, December 2018

Ildar Abdrazakov tops every casting director’s list when it comes to Verdi productions at the world’s leading opera houses. Having signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon in October 2017, the Russian bass now releases his first solo album for the label. Offering a compelling programme of the composer’s dramatic scenes and arias, Verdi reconvenes the winning team from Abdrazakov’s Duets album for DG, placing him again in company with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal. The recording, set for international release on 16 August 2019, confirms why Abdrazakov is rated among the greatest Verdi basses of all time.

The singer chose to record arias from the heart of his Verdi repertoire and this new album includes works from the early and middle years of the composer’s career, placing often dark, always complex characters centre stage. Verdi opens with music from Attila, one of Abdrazakov’s signature roles, with Rolando Villazón as the slave Uldino. Following a performance of Attila at Barcelona’s Liceu in April 2018, Seen and Heard International concluded that Abdrazakov “is the best possible interpreter of the King of the Huns … a true successor to the great Samuel Ramey”.

Other album highlights include Zaccaria’s sublime recitative and prayer from Nabucco, Philip II’s heart-breaking reflections on the burden of royal power from Don Carlo, the scene and aria from Oberto in which the title character swears to seek revenge, and the fears and forebodings of Banquo’s “Come dal ciel precipita” from Macbeth.

Recording Verdi with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and his Orchestre Métropolitain was a joyful occasion for Abdrazakov. “When there’s a sense of trust, when the chemistry between the pit and the stage is right, first-class results can come of it,” he notes. “And that’s precisely what I experience with Yannick.”

The Yellow Label has already documented the bass’s majestic voice, hailed by the Independent (London) for its “imposing sound, beautiful legato, [and] oodles of finesse”. His discography includes two DVDs from New York’s Metropolitan Opera: Lucia di Lammermoor (2009) with Anna Netrebko and Prince Igor (2014), in which he takes the title role. Duets, released in 2017, paired Abdrazakov with Rolando Villazón in such evergreen works as Bizet’s “Pearl Fishers Duet”, the spine-tingling confrontation between Escamillo and Don José from Carmen, and the Russian song “Ochi chernye”.

Ildar Abdrazakov was born in the city of Ufa in the Russian federal republic of Bashkortostan. Drawn to acting as a child while watching his father at work as a film and television director, Abdrazakov had no interest in opera until his older brother, also a singer, showed him a DVD of Verdi’s Attila. He instantly fell in love with the composer’s music and, at the age of 14, began singing lessons with his brother’s teacher, M.G. Murtazina. He joined her class at the Ufa State Institute of the Arts two years later, and continued his studies with her after joining the Bashkirian Opera and Ballet Theatre. He made his debut at St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre when he was just 22. Breakthrough performances at La Scala in La forza del destino and Macbeth followed. The latter opera was conducted by Riccardo Muti, from whom the young bass learned lasting lessons about performing Verdi. Muti’s teacher was Antonino Votto, who in turn had worked with Arturo Toscanini, who knew Verdi and established new standards of singing his music.

“I’m following in a line of tradition,” says Ildar Abdrazakov. The bass has helped lengthen that line since first singing at La Scala in 2001, with a string of critically acclaimed Verdi performances. From the scheming Count Walter’s “Il mio sangue” to the inspiring nobility of Zaccaria’s “D’Egitto là sui lidi”, his latest album presents a masterclass in Verdi singing. “In these operas the challenge often lies in the emotional intensity, in the psychological delineation of character,” he notes. “With Verdi it’s always a matter of feelings and the soul, of conflicts and people in confrontation.”

At the end of June, Abdrazakov sang the role of Ramfis in three concert performances of Aida with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Muti. He will join the conductor again on 13, 15 and 17 August at the Salzburg Festival for performances of Verdi’s Requiem with the Wiener Philharmoniker, before returning to New York the following month to play Banquo in a revival of Adrian Noble’s staging of Macbeth (with Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth).

PROFOUND BASS

Opera star Ildar Abdrazakov signs exclusive Deutsche Grammophon contract as he takes to the stage for Warlikowski’s Don Carlos in Paris

Ildar Abdrazakov, described by Vanity Fair as “one of the most sought-after young basses in the operatic world”, has signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. The deal was announced on 10 October to coincide with the Bashkirian artist’s performances as Philip II in Krzysztof Warlikowski’s new production of Verdi’s Don Carlos at the Paris Opéra, conducted by Philippe Jordan and also starring fellow DG exclusive artist Elīna Garanča in her role debut as Princess Eboli, Jonas Kaufmann as Don Carlos and Sonya Yoncheva as Élisabeth de Valois. Abdrazakov is set to make his first solo album for Deutsche Grammophon next year in Montreal, joining the Orchestre Métropolitain and Yannick Nézet-Séguin to record a programme of Verdi arias. The tracklist will include works such as Fiesco’s “Il lacerato spirito” from Simon Boccanegra and Philip’s monologue “Ella giammai m’amò” from the Italian version of Don Carlos, one of the most profound arias in the bass repertoire.


Abdrazakov also appears in partnership with Rolando Villazón on a newly issued DG album of French and Italian operatic duets for tenor and bass, including “Au fond du temple saint” from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers and “Voglio dire” from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. The recording, it too made with the Orchestre Métropolitain and Nézet-Séguin, was released worldwide last month. Abdrazakov and Villazón will perform a selection of duets from their album live on tour this autumn. They begin on 20 November at Prague’s Smetana Hall and over the following few weeks will also appear at the Berlin Philharmonie, the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus, Stuttgart’s Liederhalle, the Philharmonie Gasteig in Munich and Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, with a final date at the Vienna Konzerthaus on 12 December.

“I am delighted to strengthen my relationship with Deutsche Grammophon,” comments the bass. “We first worked together on DVD releases of Borodin’s Prince Igor and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. It was a very happy experience for me to record duets with Rolando and Yannick for the yellow label, and I cannot wait to make my first solo album for DG with these remarkable Verdi arias.”

Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon, welcomed Ildar Abdrazakov to the yellow label’s family of artists. “It is easy to understand why critics and audiences have been so entranced by Ildar’s artistry and why he is in such high demand worldwide. He owns the qualities of the greatest operatic basses, from vocal warmth and dazzling agility to the most profound expression of human emotions. Those qualities radiate from his first album for us, a tremendous recording of duets made in the company of friends – the equally charismatic Rolando Villazón and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.”

Ildar Abdrazakov’s artistic eloquence and captivating stage presence have earned rave reviews and invitations to appear at the world’s leading opera houses and concert halls. He was born in 1976 in Ufa, then capital of the Soviet Republic of Bashkiria, and encouraged from an early age to study music by his artistic parents. After formal training at the Ufa State Institute of Arts, he joined the Bashkirian Opera and Ballet Theatre. Ildar’s career gained momentum after he won the Maria Callas International Television Competition in 2000, leading to his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni four years later and frequent appearances there ever since. Abdrazakov has become a regular at La Scala, Milan, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Bavarian State Opera. He has also given concert performances at, among others, Carnegie Hall, the Musikverein in Vienna, the BBC Proms and the Salzburg Festival.

“One of the most exciting Russian singers to emerge on the international scene in the past decade.” Opera News