Siberian baritone with a dark-grained voice and a commanding stage presence
Renowned for his silver mane and smouldering good looks as much as his richly burnished baritone, the Russian singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who has died aged 55 after suffering from brain cancer, was a distinctive presence on the opera and concert stage. He came to prominence in the west when he won the 1989 Cardiff Singer of the World competition, pipping Bryn Terfel (who took the lieder prize) to the post. The Royal Opera, Decca and EMI were already on his trail, and the following day he had a recording contract in his pocket. The exceptional vocal qualities of the 26-year-old – a dark-grained lyric baritone timbre, seamless legato and immaculate breath control – were already evident.
His Covent Garden debut came as Riccardo in Bellini’s I Puritani in 1992. Having taught himself, by careful study of recordings, the principles of bel canto singing – the flexible line and tonal nuances – he was able to bring a silky Italianate lyricism to bear on roles as wide-ranging as Don Giovanni, Valentin in Gounod’s Faust, Germont in La Traviata and Simon Boccanegra.