BWW Review: Toronto is Head Over Heels for HIBLA GERZMAVA
Russia seems to be everywhere these days. Conductor and violinist, Vladimir Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra performed to an enthusiastic crowd at the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, Ontario. The evening was presented by Show One Productions, the same company that recently brought us the Trio Magnifico (Anna Netrebko, Yusif Eyvazov and Dmitri Hvorostovsky) and featured the Canadian debuts of cello soloist Danielle Akta and Russian opera diva Hibla Gerzmava.
Opening with Mozart's "Divertimento No.1 in D Major, K.136", the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra proved to be a unified, tight-knit ensemble. Spivakov conducted the musicians gracefully, enforcing beautiful dynamics in the piece - his hand tucked tight against his body, pulling the orchestra down to a sublime piano. Dedicated to "the memory of victims of fascism and war", Shostakovich's "Chamber Symphony in C minor Op.110a" was a haunting performance. Played with sensitivity, the piece swelled - filling the hall with the sound of strings, in perfect harmony.
Making her Canadian debut, at the age of fourteen, Danielle Akta is a thrill to watch. The music seems to take her over, like a trance - her eyes closed, she breathes it in and exhales it through her cello. Akta is a magnificent musician, a true prodigy. In Bruch's "Kol Nidrei op.47 for Cello and Orchestra", Akta played passionately - followed by Popper's "Concert Polonaise, Op.14", which allowed her to have more fun, showing off her technical agility.
After a brief intermission, Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava graced the stage, also making her Canadian debut. Norma's "Casta Diva" is impressive in itself, but there's a certain excitement when a soprano opts to perform the second part of the aria in recital - which is exactly what Gerzmava did. She is known for being a great interpreter of bel canto, receiving rave reviews after her performance in Anna Bolena at La Scala this past April. This performance was proof of that. Her voice is well supported - legato lines comes naturally to her - and her top is quite effortless. It takes some time to adjust to her jaw-enforced vibrato, but the sound is pleasant, round and dark - Russian to the core. Gerzmava also sang from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur and Verdi's I Masnadieri - the latter being the highlight of the evening's program, in my opinion. She has some of the clearest onsets I've ever heard from a soprano, especially with such a robust, dramatic sound.
I'm not alone in my praise for the singer - the audience unanimously agreed, demanding not one, but two encores. Gerzmava graciously agreed, performing Puccini's "O mio babbino caro" and then being joined onstage by Vladimir Spivakov for Strauss' "Morgen!" to end the evening.
Show One Productions does not disappoint with the talent they're bringing to Canadian stages, I'm interested to see what they have in store for this coming year.
(header photo credit: Vladimir Kevorkov, courtesy of Show One Productions)