Gruberova in stupendous voice in Budapest

by Riku-Matti Kinnunen

Edita Gruberova's aria concert at the Budapest Congress Centre (Hungary), 30 Jan 97
orchestra: Magyar Állami Hangversenyzenekar
conductor: Friedrich Haider

L' Unica proved herself once again of being able to keep her audience spellbound for an entire evening, two and a half hours to be precise, and offered an enjoyable selection of arias and scenes from operas closely related to her appearances on opera stages.

The evening started with Bel raggio lusinghier from Rossini's Semiramide, and continued, after the Forza del destino overture, with Lucia's aria Regnava nel silenzio... Quando rapito in estasi from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. It was truly revelatory to hear Gruberova's account of Semiramide's aria in the Budapest concert after experiencing it on record and in performances during the past 15 years. Her voice was perfectly focused and expressive as always, but what makes Gruberova the only singer today capable of conveying Semiramide's feelings convincingly to the listener is her amazingly inventive and touching use of the text. Langui, spari - just to cite two details of her undeniable mastery in combining words and notes.

Gruberova's Lucia must be as celebrated as her Zerbinetta or Puritani Elvira, but Lucia might provide the listener with an even more shocking musical experience than the other two heroines mentioned. Gruberova is Lucia - a cliché? perhaps, but that's how I feel. Anyone who's seen her facial expression during the aria and felt Lucia's horror alternating with the ecstatic sentiment of love, knows what I mean. The splendid technique with the famous floating pianissimi in the highest register, roulades, runs and trills form the solid ground for her unique rendering of the fountain aria.

After the triumphant execution of O luce di quest' anima (from Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix, which is the prima donna's latest success on stage), one certainly wondered if anybody else could ever be taken seriously in that role again. Gruberova's teasingly easy coloratura and intelligent phrasing brought the house down, after which the fans were mercifully given the chance to calm down during the following L' Arlésienne 2. Suite by Bizet. The official programme came to its close with the Finale from Donizetti's Anna Bolena. Piangete voi?... Al dolce guidami... Coppia iniqua (Anna's Mad Scene) showed the artist at her most poignant. The aria rose majestically from the tender and desperate recitative to the soaring heights of the cabaletta preceded by the elegiac aria itself marked with Gruberova's most cheered trademarks, impeccable legati, sophisticated melodic lines and crystal-clear diction.

After minutes of rhythmic handclaps, rapturous ovation, foot stomp and demands for more from the audience in delirium, Gruberova gave three encores: Una voce poco fa, Die Nachtigall and Spiel'ich die Unschuld vom Lande which were all followed by a storm of applause and the last one by a standing ovation, that is very rare indeed in Hungary. Gruberova's reliable and sensitive conductor was Friedrich Haider who supported the soloist with some inspired playing from the local orchestra.

(Page last updated: 14-Aug-2001)
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