Nélida Nassar 03.09.2016
David Aladashvili took place behind the piano at Al Bustan auditorium, and swiftly attacked a short piece from the Georgian music repertoire. His rendition was fierce and passionate; dark and lyrical. He paused to greet the audience with a charming “good evening” in Arabic. From the first moment he walked onto the stage, his great scenic presence, – remnant of his early acting training – enthusiasm and humor were palpable. Invited to join him and appearing for the first time in Lebanon, Georgian dramatic mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili who has found stardom in the opera world since 2009 in Bizet’s Carmen at La Scala.
The mezzo soprano exuded immense likability and down-to-earth charm despite a certain stage rigidity. The magnificent power of her dramatic voice was nicely paired with her talented pianist musicality. Aladashvili announced each composers interpretation, in French interspersed with English sentences. The program, without intermission featured lyrics in Georgian, Russian, French, and Spanish showcased Rachvelishvili’s versatility. Bracketed by three proudly defiant Georgian songs by Otar Taktakishvili (“The Sun of October,” “In the town, in the Dust,” “Mary the mother of God”) and Manuel de Falla (“Silete Canciones Populares Españolas”) were five romantic works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, a selection of “Elégie, Chanson triste et Phidylé” by Henri Duparc and the post-Romantic lusciousness of Gabriel Fauré’s work “Aprés un rêve” and “Fleur jetée.”
Rachvelishvili’s dusky, velvety, voluptuous and scintillating voice, with each note animated by an interplay of richly shaded overtones, was well served by the Rachmaninoff selections. Her beautiful array of tone colors shimmered particularly in “Oh Do not Grieve” and “Sing Not to Me, Beautiful Maiden.” She also has developed a natural ability to ornament her arias with thrilling coloratura. If the Duparc interpretation suffered from too many tempo rubatos, it is because here the pianist wasn’t sensitive to the French music stylistic subtleties. His rendition was more of a personal interpretation certainly far from the Gerald Moore’s top accompanist style. The mezzo soprano musical nuances in the Fauré was with perfect legato and delicacy. The sound near whisper projected warmth, sensuality and strength. Rachvelishvili’s lines soared lyrically in the de Falla – a piece as French aesthetically – while the piano traded the same arabesque motifs. If the music always flattered the soloist’s artful singing, the Fauré suffered from a poor articulation and diction in French, impairing the directness and naturalness with which Rachvelishvili projected words in Russian or Spanish.
The compelling Georgian mezzo-soprano and pianist clearly thrived on collaborating with each other as they shared the musical intelligence and adventuresome spirit of two kindred spirits when it comes to exploring repertory of various styles and periods. Aladashvili and Rachvelishvili kept their audience raptly focused on what mattered most: the songs themselves. They brought the concert to a jolly conclusion with two encores and a wild rendition of Rachvelishvili’s signature pieces from Bizet’s Carmen first la “Seguidille” adorned with fanciful piano trills followed by the “Habenera” feature readily identifiable dance rhythms associated with Spain (even if the Habanera originated in Cuba), that the mezzo soprano sang with clearer diction and a long, interminable trills. Rachvelishvili’s timber has a tone that evokes both plum-colored velvet and polished steel. Although not all the music was of equal merit or equally well played, it was a pleasure discovering these two upcoming and distinguished soloists making the evening quite a delight.