One of opera’s brightest young stars, Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, releases her eagerly-awaited debut album on Decca Classics today. It follows a hugely successful year which has seen her light up the stage of the Vienna State Opera, perform for millions at the Bastille Day Concert in Paris, tour the US with Andrea Bocelli and even appear on the big screen opposite Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant in the acclaimed film, Florence Foster Jenkins.
Aida’s self-titled album, which was recorded in Vienna with the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien and conductor Cornelius Meister, reflects her life and musical tastes as well as her Tatar ancestry. It showcases her stunning voice with works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov, as well as folk tunes and some of her personal favourite songs.
Aida opens the album with two of her signature arias: Gounod’s ‘Je veux vivre’ from Roméo et Juliette, which she performed to rave reviews at the Vienna and Dresden Opera Balls, and Delibes’ ‘Bell Song’, which she sung in Florence Foster Jenkins (starring as Lily Pons). “It was one of my dreams to sing this piece,” she says.
The album also features treasures of Aida’s beloved Russian opera repertoire, including ‘The Snow Maiden’s Aria’ by Rimsky-Korsakov. She sang this piece at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition in 2013, where she was awarded first prize – it was a milestone moment in her career. Aida comments, “It’s such an emotional piece, and I’ve been singing it since I was a child. I think of it as my signature aria.”
Aida’s debut includes the first recording of Alluki, a hauntingly beautiful folk song which she sings in her native Tatar language. There is also a special rendition of Midnight in Moscow (also known as Moscow Nights) in which she has added her vocal to an instrumental version taken from the 1962 Mercury LP Balalaika Favourites – the first LP made by a Western company in the Soviet Union. Cossack Lullaby is another Russian favourite on the album, with words by Lermontov set to a melancholy folk tune. “I grew up in a musical family where all kinds of music was playing the whole time,” says Aida. “It is nice to sing these lighter songs sometimes.”
Like many other opera singers, Aida is fond of popular songs and ballads, but her heart and career remain firmly rooted in opera. “Very few people can sing opera – it is the hardest thing. You have to be healthy and resilient, full of stamina, and ready for an immense amount of work – as well as having the vocal qualities and a good strong voice.”
Watch the trailer for Aida here.