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Anita - Anita Rachvelishvili, Giacomo Sagripanti, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI

Winner of the 'Jahrespreis' 2018 - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik. Read more…

Critic Michael Stegemann writes: "The recorded debut of the young Georgian mezzo soprano Anita Rachvelishvili (born 1984), is genuinely spectacular. Since her Carmen at La Scala, Milan, she has counted as one of the "shooting stars" of the international opera scene, celebrated in London and New York as much as in Paris, Munich or Berlin. The glowing intensity of her focused voice and her sure feeling for style bring Teresa Berganza or Marilyn Horne to mind, while the naturally dark timbre is reminiscent of Olga Borodina. Rachvelishvili has ever shade of expression at her disposal, from seduction (Carmen and Dalila) to fragility (Charlotte and Santuzza) and confidence (Eboli and Sapho). This recording is more than a promise of things to come – it's the confirmation of a great artist."

It was the sort of debut operatic dreams are made of. Aged just 25, an unknown Georgian mezzo-soprano stepped out on the stage of one of the world's great opera houses, La Scala, Milan, to sing Carmen. Daniel Barenboim was the conductor and the superstar tenor Jonas Kaufmann sang opposite her as Don José. It was the young Anita Rachvelishvili's first performance at the theatre and her début in the role of Bizet's famous seductress. It launched her on a glittering international career that has since seen her sing Carmen, and a wide variety of other great mezzo roles, on all the world's great stages.

There was also no doubt that Carmen should feature on her début recording, as it does in the form of the "Seguidilla" and "Habanera". The rest of the selection showcases roles and arias that are especially close to Rachvelishvili's heart, allowing her to explore – and reassess – the dramatic side of the mezzo-soprano repertoire.

The seductive heroine of Saint-Saëns's 'Samson et Dalila', for example, is not just the "terrible woman" people imagine her to be, she says. The composer litters the part with instructions to sing quietly, and Rachvelishvili set out to observe those instructions when she sang the role at the Opéra de Paris. Azucena in Verdi's 'Il trovatore' prompted a similar reappraisal. "When I was preparing to sing the part in London for the first time in 2016," Rachvelishvili recalls, "I discovered that it's very delicate, very colourful – a very beautiful role. It's fragile."

Another larger-than-life Verdi role is that of Princess Eboli in 'Don Carlo', a role that Rachvelishvili is due to tackle in a couple of years' time.

Rachvelishvili has chosen arias from two more French roles. "Ô ma lyre immortelle" from Gounod's 'Sapho' is a famous number from a rarely performed opera based on the life of the ancient Greek poet. She describes the role of Charlotte in Massenet's 'Werther' – whose Letter Aria is included here – as "beautiful and a dream to sing. And I hope that's going to come true one day!"

Another new role included here is that of Santuzza in Mascagni's one-act Cavalleria rusticana. It's an opera Rachvelishvili will perform for the first time in 2018, and with which she feels a personal connection. "The first time I watched it live, I cried from beginning to end," she recalls. "It's about Sicily, about all the shame women are made to feel, and about love. And all those things are very close to Georgian traditions, too, where there's still all that rigidity, all those discussions and questions about women."

The role of women is very differently portrayed, however, in 'The Legend of Shota Rustaveli', completed in 1919 by the Georgian composer Dimitri Arakishvili and based on the folk legend built around the figure of Tamar the Great, a woman who, as Rachvelishvili explains, ruled Georgia, from 1184 to 1213, less as a queen than as an independent female king. "She was a very strong woman, very smart and very clever. We are very proud that we had this huge personality in our history, at a time when women had no roles, no power, no importance at all. She's a good example for Georgian woman today. It's a good thing to include in my debut album," she adds, "as I consider myself also a successful and strong woman – or at least I try!"

Extract from booklet note by Hugo Shirley

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