Russian bass reprises his 'Don Giovanni'

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

The powerhouse Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov is a fervent fan of the Kennedy Center Opera House, which he regards as one of the finest in the world. In his return to the Washington National Opera for the sixth time since his company debut, he is once again the wily "Don Giovanni."

After portraying Leporello on the opening night of the 2007 production, he switched to the role of protagonist while his older brother, Askar, sang Leporello. In 2009, he was Mustafa in Rossini's "L'italiana in Algeri."

Abdrazakov captured kudos once again as he executed his comedic persona in the WNO 2010 production of Mozart's "Le nozze di Figaro." Now, he is delighted to revisit the character he portrays as a "modern man."

"When I sing the role, I feel like another man," he said. "I enjoy myself on stage with opera buffa roles like this and the beautiful music Mozart wrote for a bass baritone. Wagner is not for me, and I doubt that I'll ever sing his operas. My voice is best for Italian and French opera. Not many operas are written for the bass, so I've done most of the principal roles. Some of my favorite characters are Verdi's 'Don Carlo' and Gounod's 'Mephistopheles.' In the future, I'd like to sing Mussorgsky's 'Boris Godunov.' When I give recitals, I prefer lieders, Russian, French and Italian songs. Unfortunately, my opera schedule is so full now I don't have time for them."

Onstage
'Don Giovanni'
Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St. NW
When: Through Oct. 13
Info: $25 to $300; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324; kennedy-center.org

Abdrazakov traces his love of performance back to early childhood, when he began acting in shows given by his father, a stage and film producer. Upon hearing his older brother practice his voice lessons, Abdrazakov decided that he could sing just as well. A vocal coach concurred. Three years of lessons led to his Mariinsky Theater debut as Figaro in 1998 and an invitation to join the Mariinsky Opera Company two years later.

It is not surprising that the repertoire of a direct descendant of Genghis Kahn includes such powerful roles as Attila, Mephistopheles and the title role in Rossini's "Moise et Pharaon." His voice and commanding stage presence bring them to life in vivid detail. At the Met earlier this season, Abdrazakov debuted the role of Dosifel in "Khovanshchina," an opera by Mussorgsky that is not often performed.

"This is Russian music I understand," he said. "I felt a good relationship with the work because I understand the feeling of people I know."

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Emily Cary

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner