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Barry Bassis
The Epoch Times, June 2011

It is appropriate that the other new release on the Great Singers Live series from the Münchner Rundfunkorchester (also on BR Klassik) is of the great Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov.

Ghiaurov often sang with Freni and was married to her from 1977 until his death from a heart attack on June 2, 2004, at the age of 74. His final stage performance was earlier that year. (In addition to his own performances, he coached Freni in the Russian roles for which she won acclaim.)

The Ghiaurov recordings were made in 1966 and 1969, when he was in his prime. From the first notes from Gounod’s “Faust” it is clear that he possessed a commanding voice, not quite as dark as Boris Christoff’s, his fellow bass from Bulgaria.

The collection also brings out his versatility and ability to act out his roles, ranging from the sardonic Devil to the tortured Czar Boris Godunov (“The Coronation Scene”). The arias from “Simon Boccanegra” and “Don Carlos” again highlight the drama, while the singer’s comic side comes to the fore in arias from “The Barber of Seville” and an obscure piece by Tichon Chrennikow (in which Ghiaurov plays a funny drunk).

The orchestral sound on this and the Freni CD are not up to modern standards but are acceptable. My main criticism is that translations would have helped, at least for the Chrennikow and an aria from Bizet’s “La jolie fille de Perth.” But the bottom line is that the singing is extraordinary.

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