Dargomyzhsky: Rusalka

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dargomyzhsky
LABELS: Profil
WORKS: Evelina Dobraceva, Arutjun Kotchinian, Vsevolod Grivnov, Marina Prudenskaja, Elena Bryleva, Andrey Telegin, Martha Jurowski; WDR Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Michail Jurowski
PERFORMER: Rusalka
CATALOGUE NO: PH 09024

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Rusalki, the water-nymphs, have made many operatic appearances. The most famous of them all sings the title role in Dvorák’s Rusalka, but the Russian composer Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1813-69) got there first with his version drawn from Pushkin’s dramatic poem.

Premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1856, it is a lyrical work with roots in bel canto transmitted via Glinka, though there are places where Dargomyzhsky experiments with the radical realist aesthetic he was later to develop in The Stone Guest, in which his vocal writing attempts to mimic speech.

It also echoes German Romantic music – there are French influences too – through the use of melodrama, when Rusalochka (daughter of Rusalka and the Prince) speaks over the music. Recorded in Cologne with a cast steeped in the Russian idiom, this is a very welcome recording (even if the booklet includes a synopsis rather than libretto).

Evelina Dobraceva, who represented Russia at the 2007 Cardiff Singer of the World competition, sings the title with rich-toned flexibility, and Vsevolod Grivnov sings the high-lying part of her Prince with great fluency.

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There are solid performances from Arutjun Kotchinian (Miller) and Marina Prudenskaya (Princess), and the score sounds compelling under the excellent baton of Michail Jurowski. Keeping it in the family, Martha Jurowski – his grand-daugther, and daughter of the conductor Vladimir Jurowski – speaks the lines of the little girl Rusalochka with charm. John Allison