Russian Light Review: Olga Peretyatko Explores The Depths Of Russian Music And Culture In This Immaculate Album

Sony Classical

Over the past few years, there has been an emergence of Russian albums recorded by many of today’s greatest divas. Many of the same arias, spanning from Rimsky Korsakov’s gorgeous oriental melodies to Rachmaninov’s lush melodies, havce been recording. It can be very difficult to listen to these pieces over and over unless that interpreter has something new to say.

With her fourth solo album, Olga Peretyatko has put together her most intimate yet most passionate album to date. In “Russian Light,” we see an artist in full maturity who possesses a rich voice in this repertoire.

The Voice 

For many years the soprano has been performing the bel canto repertoire and the voice has shown a bird-like quality that often thins out at the top. The high register has sometimes lacked support but this CD shows a new quality. When I first started hearing it, it was surprising to see how much this artist’s voice has changed and how it is becoming an even more beautiful instrument. The middle is rich and it has a darker tone that showcases a lyric soprano in development. The low notes, particularly in “The Nightingale and The Rose,” are also a surprise as they have great resonance.

The Album 

What this album does so incredibly well is take us on a journey. Unlike most albums that prefer to mix up the repertoire, Peretyatko and Sony have started out with Glinka, the classical composer and progressed to Rimsky-Korsakov straight to Rachmaninov and then to Stravinsky and Shostakovich. It allows the audience to hear the evolution of Russian music over 100-plus years without ever feeling like we’re being pushed in different directions. It also shows the range of Perteyatko’s voice and the evolution it will likely make from high coloratura to the lyric repertoire.

Glinka

The album opens with Lyudmila’s Cavatina’s from “Ruslan and Lyudmila.” Peretyatko shows a sunny quality to her voice as she floats the notes to the highest parts of her range and dispatches the coloratura runs effortlessly. Dmitry Liss’s conducting keeps the tempo buoyant, displaying the youthfulness and happiness of Lyudmila in the aria. This, in turn, allows Peretyatko’s bright color to emit that jubilant quality as she goes from the pianos and crescendoes to the

Dmitry Liss’s conducting keeps the tempo buoyant, displaying the youthfulness and happiness of Lyudmila in the aria. This, in turn, allows Peretyatko’s bright color to emit that jubilant quality as she goes from the pianos and crescendoes to the fortes.

Rimsky-Korsakov

The first selection of this section is from “The Golden Cockerel.” The Hymn to the Sun is sung with delicacy as Peretyatko begins the phrases in mezzo piano and eventually reaches the coloratura in the cadenza with a great sense of elasticity and expansiveness. Even as music has a driving force, Peretyatko always keeps the delicate tone. Liss gives the music a dance-like quality emphasizing the cello rhythm and flutes and oboes. The music is always given a forward movement and Peretyatko is finally able to bring out all her volume as she reaches a high note in a final cadenza before eventually dying out. Liss gives the music a dance-like feel, emphasizing the cello rhythm and flutes and oboes. The music is always given a sense of drive and Peretyatko is finally able to bring out all her volume as she reaches a high note in a final cadenza before eventually dying out.

“The Snow Maiden” begins with a very mysterious opening before a massive crescendo. Peretyatko sings her first lines with a staccato quality in a playful tone before entering a cadenza that gives the music the oriental flavor. During the lyrical section of the piece, one feels a tinge of melancholy before returning to the youthful and playful melody. Peretyatko easily shifts her timbre to suit the music, moving from a darker shade to an ebullient one.

Volkhova’s Lullaby’s from “Sadko” sees Peretyatko shift from the girl to the more mature young woman. The voice is allowed to showcase the middle section and the lower register. Here she sings with a purity of tone as she concocts polished legato phrasing. The singing through hangs around mezzo-piano, growing subtly until it dies down in a gorgeous decrescendo.

Marfa’s Aria from “The Tsar’s Bride” is an outpouring of emotions from the subtle opening to the cadenza sung with a rapid tone and finally entering a more introspective passage that sees Peretyatko explore the pianos of her voice. There is so much nostalgia in the voice as she gives it a darker quality. Then in the second half of the aria, the violins accompany Peretyatko’s voice as her voice grows in intensity until it reaches an emotional climax. The voice and orchestra in tandem creating a mesmerizing moment that is easily one of the highlights of the album.

The final piece in this section is “The Nightingale and the Rose.” The orchestra begins with the eery clarinet solo setting the rhapsodic stage that the soprano further enhances. I will admit this is one of my favorite pieces in the album as Peretyatko shapes a mysterious atmosphere, her voice entering with little vibrato before eventually growing in its oscillations. In this arrangement, there is a violin solo accompanying the voice so the oriental quality is always maintained. Only at the end does Peretyatko let the volume out as she reaches the high C before spinning the subsequent lines down to a piano. Unlike some, she sings all the way down to the lowest extensions of her voice, creating a truly mystical effect.

Rachmaninov 

There are four pieces from Rachmaninov with the “Vocalise” at the center of it. The first piece that kicks off this section is “Eshchyo V Polyakh Beleyet Sneg, Op. 14, No. 11.” Peretyatko starts the piece with a passionate forte voice before eventually entering a middle section with  a more introspective color. Here her voice is filled with a subtle piano but as the music gains steam, her voice also regains the vigor from the beginning before climaxing in a lush high note.

The “Vocalise” that can feel repetitive in most interpretations. Peretyatko luckily has gorgeous musical ideas as she spins each note with ease, balancing and changing the dynamics that really get to the heart of the piece. One can understand where the music is really going and that makes it a whole lot easier to listen to.

But the true gems in this section are the “Ne Poy, Krasavica, Op. 4, No. 4” and “Zdes’ Khorosho, Op. 21, No. 7.” Both pieces are filled with melancholic tone and let Peretyatko’s middle section resonate. The subtle, velvet sound she produces in these pieces allows us to really see the artist in her most comfortable range. She follows the music with precision, creating poetic colors and allowing Rachmaninov’s melodic genius to come through. Even if you don’t understand Russian, Peretyatko’s clarity of diction is unrivaled and can help you build a picture.
Stravinsky 
The second nightingale song in this album is “The Nightingale: Nightingale’s Song, ‘Akh! Serdce Dobroye.'” Here Peretyatko is able to show her coloratura expertise while still displaying a wide palette of lyrical colors. However, the soprano follows suit in creating a discomforting feel, ending the aria with a coloratura run that she spins with flexibility. After a long trill she scoops up to a high note ending in dissonance.
Shostakovich
Peretyatko was adamant of wanting to showcase the range of Shostakovich’s music. In Lidochka’s Song, “Ya V Shkolu Kogda-To Khodila” she does that by bringing to the fore a buoyant aria that is not only playful but also shows the composer’s temperamental touches, particularly in the middle and ending sections.
The final aria in the album is  “Lidochka’s Song, ‘Chasy Na Ploshchadi Zazhglis.'” This aria explores the composer’s dreary side, while also showcasing his melodic genius. It’s an aria where Peretyatko is allowed to explore the lower range of her voice, which she is bound to develop further as her career develops.
What’s most interesting is the dramatic juxtaposition of this concluding, somber aria with the sunny opening of Glinka’s music. Perhaps it’s a comment on the way Russian music has evolved but beyond that, it leaves the audiences with more introspective feelings and thoughts of how Russian culture (and all culture really) has changed and progressed over time.
Liss and the Ural Philharmonic are a great accompaniment as they move from one style of music to the next. There is a change in color from the more bel canto and classical feel of Glinka to the more mystical and oriental colors of Rimsky-Korsakov. Liss emphasizes the harp and winds to highlight that Russian color that was ingrained in his music. And Rachmaninov’s pieces are given a more romantic touch with the violins dominating in the accompaniment and given an earthy quality. The Stravinsky and Shostakovich are more of a balance between the whole orchestra as both composer explore the depths of the orchestra.
Overall, Peretyatko has grown as an artist and this album truly shows us the potential that she has to give in the coming years.

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About the Author

Francisco Salazar
FRANCISCO SALAZAR, (Publisher) worked as a reporter for Latin Post where he has had the privilege of interviewing numerous opera stars including Anita Rachvelshvili and Ailyn Perez. He also worked as an entertainment reporter where he covered the New York and Tribeca Film Festivals and interviewed many celebrities such as Antonio Banderas, Edgar Ramirez and Benedict Cumberbatch. He currently freelances for Remezcla. He holds a Masters in Media Management from the New School and a Bachelor's in Film Production and Italian studies from Hofstra University.

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