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Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing aria from The Queen of Spades during reopening gala of the Bolshoi Theatre, 28 October 2011 (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is so difficult to accept the death of Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. He was a powerful male singer with a “silver mane” (this description is not mine). Hvorostosky had brown hair, but it turned white in his early thirties. He passed away on 22 November 2017, at the age of 55.

Hvorostovsky was born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, on 16 October 1962, to what I would describe as an upper middle-class family. He came to the attention of music lovers everywhere when he won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, in 1989.

In the summer of 2015, Hvorostovsky announced that he had a brain tumour. After a short leave, he resumed his career, at a slower pace and briefly. An inoperable malignant brain tumour is merciless.

In the above photograph, he is singing an aria from Tchaikovsky‘s Queen of Spades, based on a short story, Pikovaha Dama (La Dame de pique) written during the fall of 1833 by Alexander Pushkin (26 May 1779 – 29 January 1837). Pushkin is also the author of the drama Boris Godunov (1833) and a novel in verse entitled Eugene Onegin. Eugene Onegin was serialized between 1848-1852 and it is the basis for Tchaikovsky‘s 1879 opera Eugene Onegin. The opera’s librettist was the composer’s brother Modest Tchaikovsky.

Verdi’s La Traviata

Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky was in good health when he sang Di Provenza, il mar, il suol, an aria from Giuseppi Verdi‘s La Traviata (1852), an opera derived from a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils (27 July 1824 – 27 November 1895) La Dame aux camélias (The Lady with/of the Camellias) (1848), or Camille, to an English-speaking audience. Dmitri Hvrostovsky is Giorgio Germont, trying to persuade his son, Alfredo, who loves Violetta, to return to Provence, the family home (Scene 2 of La Traviata).

The protagonist of Giuseppi Verdi‘s La Traviata (the fallen woman) is Violetta Valéry. Alexandre Dumas named his protagonist Marguerite Gautier. She had been Marie Duplessis (1824 – 1847) who wore a red camellia when she was menstruating, a message to her lovers. She was born Alphonsine Rose Plessis, in Normandy, to an abusive father who sold her when she was 15.

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Marie Duplessis by Édouard Viénot

Marie Duplessis

At the age of 16, the beautiful Marie Duplessis conquered Paris. She bore a child to Charles Morny, duc de Morny, but the baby died a month after birth. The duc de Morny, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand‘s illegitimate grandson and a half-brother to Napoleon III, looked after Marie Duplessis, providing her with an apartment and transforming her into a refined courtesan and salonnière, the most famous in her days. She was Alexandre Dumas, fils’ lover and a lover to various aristocrats as well as composer Franz Liszt. Alexandre Dumas, fils, born in 1824, could not afford to marry her.

The lovely Marie Duplessis died of tuberculosis on 3 February 1847, at the age of 23. At her bedside were her husband, a brief marriage, the comte de Perregaux, and her former lover, the Baltic-German count Gustav Ernst von Stackelberg.


Sources and Ressources

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH8QoBHfjOQ (video on Marie Duplessis)

Love to everyone 

Hvorostosky sings Verdi’s Di Provenza, il mar, il suol


Dmitri Hvorostosky (Photo credit: TASS)

© Micheline Walker
10 July 2018