Marking the 30th anniversary of her international debut, soprano Maria Guleghina took to Carnegie Hall to perform some of her favorite arias from past operas and concerts. Accompanied by the stalwart Craig Rutenberg, what followed was an outpouring of passion for the city where she had some of her greatest roles and where she has not performed in since 2015.
She walked onstage in a black dress covered in silver sunflower petals, and started the night off with Donizetti’s “Il Barcaiolo.” Light and bouncy, Guleghina floated her way through the first selection before crescendoing to fill the hall with her voice, quickly dismissing the show of strength with a playful shrug.
Much of the program saw Guleghina alternating between selections that, like her choice in attire, were either dark and lyrical such as Donizetti’s “Amore e morte” and Bellini’s “L’abbandono,” or luminescent like the three canzonettas of Rossini’s “La regatta veneziana.” It was these three numbers where Guleghina displayed not only her soaring vocal technique but the experience which put her at home as she reveled in them; just as Momolo receives a kiss from his love after presenting her with the red flag of victory for winning the regatta, these numbers were the kiss Guleghina gave to the city that presented her with its love.
The darker numbers returned with “Suicidio” from Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda,” and “La mamma morta” from Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier.” The former aria had the audience just as rapt within the turmoil as Guleghina was; a pin drop could be heard within the silence that followed her final breath. In the latter, Guleghina rose above the frantic pace of the aria’s opening to deliver honeyed lyricism that ended the first half of the recital on a triumphant note.
The second half of the evening was set to follow the pattern of dark and light established earlier but as Rutenberg mentioned, due to some complications, they would have to skip over Babadjanyan’s “Vocalise,” which Guleghina performed earlier this year at the Aurora Prize ceremony. Finishing the night with selections from Verdi, Guleghina was poised to end with “Nel Di della Vittoria” from “Macbeth.” Just as night gives way to day, the hushed, plotting whispers that formed the queen’s recitative gave way to bright coloratura before the two elements combined in a blend of paranoia and beauty. Though Guleghina exulted in the standing ovation she received, the show was not over yet as three encores followed; the last of which she gave a cappella, catching the audience by surprise as they put on their coats and readied to leave. Although this recital was to celebrate her long and storied career, Guleghina will no doubt continue to sing for as long as there is an audience to share in her joy.