Andrzej Dobber in “Król Roger”, 2008, Mariinsky Opera, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 2008, fot. Clive Barda / ArenaPAL / Forum
It’s not as if a big bag of Polish singers has been emptied above the world’s opera houses, but sometimes it seems like it. More and more Polish names are appearing on the world’s biggest stages. One of them, Andrzej Dobber, has now released his first (and perhaps last) solo CD.
There have always been many high-quality Polish performers in opera. Just think of the Reszke brothers, Rosa Raisa or Jan Kiepura. The dictatorship of the proletariat and the Iron Curtain after the Second World War, however, made it difficult (if not impossible) for them to perform and record outside the country’s borders. Only a few (Teresa Żylis-Gara, Teresa Kubiak, Wiesław Ochman, Barnard Ładysz) managed to make it abroad as well. Most, however, remained unknown.
Times change. Without difficulty, we can now list the names of Ewa Podleś, Piotr Beczała, Mariusz Kwiecień, Tomasz Konieczny, Artur Rucinski, Agnes Zwierko and Aleksandra Kurzak. And in addition to these international stars, one might almost forget that there are many other great Polish singers. Andrzej Dobber for example, is one of the most popular Verdi baritones of the moment and a welcome guest in Amsterdam.
Why is Dobber less of a star than his more famous compatriots? Maybe he is not being promoted enough or the record companies don’t market him well enough. What may also play a role is that he does not come across as a charismatic ‘teddy bear’ nor does the term ‘barihunk’ apply to Dobber.
But what Dobber does have is a very solid and reliable lyrical-dramatic voice, with a warm timbre with “squillo” and carefully dosed emotional outbursts. That is no small thing, especially when you add his above average acting ability.
A few years ago, the Polish label DUX released Dobber’s very first solo CD, with no less than 10 different arias. The result is good, but it could have been better.
Dobber’s messa di voce is certainly admirable and his legato arches just couldn’t be prettier. The way he knows how to connect all the notes together is simply exemplary, so it is very pleasant to listen to him. But, is it just me, or does his voice often seem a bit tired? I find his Posa (Don Carlo) a bit flat and uninspired. All the notes are there, certainly, but I miss the nuance and certainly the drama and sometimes his accentuation in ‘Di provenza il mar’ (La Traviata) frankly sounds weird to me.
Roberto Alagna (Carlo) & Andrzej Dobber (Rodrigo) • Fragment of the performance captured on March 19, 2021 in Łodz:
It may also be the fault of conductor Antoni Wit. His tempi are sometimes exasperatingly slow, literally pulling the music apart. Very unfortunate, because many of Dobber’s interpretations are certainly there. His ‘Cortigiani, vil razza dannata’ from Rigoletto, for instance, is touchingly beautiful despite the fact that Wit is entirely adrift causing Dobber to run out of breath. It is no wonder that Dobber is considered one of the greatest Rigoletto interpreters!
Place de l’Opera once wrote about his Antoni in Berlin:
“Rigoletto is Andrzej Dobber’s role. He must be famous, because he is so good. His ‘Pari siamo’ was super and his ‘Cortigiani’ astonishing, and in the closing scenes he managed to win me over completely. A great performance”.
Andrzej Dobber, Olesya Golovneva and Bastiaan Everink (Monterone) in ‘Sì, vendetta, tremtremenda vendetta’ from Rigoletto from Deutsche Oper in Berlin:
His interpretation of ‘Perfidi! All’anglo’ (Macbeth) is almost perfect. Here his voice sounds threatening and compelling, worthy of a tyrant, but one not void of weakness. Boris’s death scene, (Boris Godunov) is in good hands with him.
Dobber is at his very best in Moniuszko, which in this case may also be due to the conductor. Here Wit is completely in place and he shows himself to be a true advocate of the music of one of his most famous compatriots. So, he can do it.
In a conversation on Polish TV, Dobber talked about the laborious process of creating the recording. Because it was his first CD, he wanted it to be his calling card. That’s why he chose a range of different arias, starting with Verdi and the Slavic repertoire and ending with Wagner.
It is his first but also his last, he says, because he found the process of preparing and recording too tiring. I sincerely hope he will change his mind and treat us to a sequel. Preferably with a different conductor and with a different producer!
Andrzej Dobber with Aleksandra Kurzak in ‘Or imponete…Morro’! la mia memoria… from La Traviata :
Please don;t forget Halina Lukomska! I was very much impressed by her Sieben Fruehe Lieder in Het C oncertgebouw, many years ago.
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Be sure I didn’t forget her! She was one of the greatest!
But there are so many more! Jadwiga Rappe, Maria Foltyn……
It’s impossible to name them all. Especially whe you do focuss at just one….
Anyhow: thanks for your reaction!
One wonders why Poland produces so many internationally renowned opera singers. Topic for another essay, Basiu?
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THank you Dorotko!