The Times strikes two false notes on Hvorostovsky

The Times strikes two false notes on Hvorostovsky


norman lebrecht

November 24, 2017

From the London Times obituary:

To some of his critics Hvorostovsky — with his silver locks, piercing features and air of vulnerability — was little more than the oligarchs’ opera star, a man of mystery with connections deep inside the political heart of Moscow, evidence of Russian meddling in opera long before the country had started influencing elections. He duetted with Renée Fleming in Red Square, sang to an audience of 6,000 in the Kremlin and when he turned 50 received a birthday telegram from President Putin.

This is completely unfounded. Alone among Russian singers, Hvorostovsky refused to sign Putin’s manifestos or dance to the Kremlin’s tune. He enjoyed mass popularity in Russia and Putin left him alone. If the Times knows of controlling oligarchs or ‘mystery’ connections, it should name them rather than promulgate false rumours. It should also name ‘some of his critics’, who contributed to the obit.

His second wife successfully persuaded him to cut back on his heavy smoking and drinking, but by then the damage was done and in the summer of 2015 a brain tumour was diagnosed.

Cause and effect? There is no known link between smoking and brain cancers. This is just another slur, blaming a man for his own death.

Will anyone own up to writing this unseemly trash?


  • Thomas Silverbörg says:

    But this is typical British Russian-bashing, Norman. They have been taught to hate without grounds for so long that it has become more than acceptable in many circles. I find this hubris more than shabby, though.

    • John Nelson says:

      Hi Norman I totally concur with Thomas having worked with Dima during my time at the Mikkeli Music Festival. Whereas Valery Gergiev, Yuri Bashmet and Anna Netrebko have publicly performed at Russia Government-sponsored events Dima restricted his performances in Russia to his music and fans.

    • mrbiggs says:

      Yes. Just because someone performs at a governmental event, does not prove
      that said person approves of any or all of the policies of that government.
      This death has let me truly melancholy just now….

    • Doris Lang Kosloff says:

      Thomas is inciteful, as always. It is unfortunate that some readers will accept the obit as factual because it mischaracterizes the core of the great man we have just lost.

    • Una says:

      No, we don’t hate Russians, and neither does the respectable Times newspapers. I can’t speak for the above obituary or how it came about to be written or who knows what. But we have not been taught to hate Russians, Russia or the culture or the language, or their music, or their food, or the Orthodox Church – far from it. If that were so, why do so many British people speak Russian with no Russian family to their name and love the language? And why do so many go on holiday there, and why so many are abandoning their British Christian denomination and joining the Russian Orthodox church in faith? Because they love the whole thing. We don’t hate America just because the majority of the American people decided to vote in Trump as their President. If anything, we are just simply so indifferent to Putin as opposed to what we think or hear about Trump, but then we have our own problems at home. Both countries are bigger than their leaders, but Russia-bashers we most certainly are not as Brits!

      • Jill says:

        Just a side note to Una, the majority of Americans did not vote Trump into office, so don’t hate us. Clinton won by nearly 2.9 million votes–it was the flawed Electoral College system that caused Trump to squeeze through. And, we loved Dmitri, and are forever brokenhearted at his passing, as his beautiful singing helped us rise above the depressing political climate here.

  • urania says:

    Each one does live his’ or her’s own life story. Times and others will learn one day. We come alone, we go alone. We are responsible for our choices and people do need compassion first.

  • R. Brite says:

    The Times ordinarily cranks out some of the world’s best obits, and it certainly had enough lead time in this case to do a superlative job, had it so wished. One is rather forced to conclude that some kind of animus, whether personal or institutional, was at work here.

  • Anon says:

    The Times is Murdoch owned. And we all know that that POS is part of the global cabale to loot Russia and keep it down. Him or the US never had a problem with a dictator, if he was THEIR son of a bitch. Now after Putin hacked the fingers of the international capital off, which already under Yeltsin had the foot in the door to loot Russia’s assets, they are in rage and will not rest, until Putin’s protection of Russian assets is toppled in the name of FREEDOM. (which nowhere at any time in their minds was anything but the freedom of the global capital.)

    • Lev Deych says:

      There are absolutely no doubt that Russia did meddle in the political processes in other countries. It is obvious that many Russian cultural figures stood firmly behind Putin supporting his policies, doing his bidding on the cultural front, projecting his “soft power”, and personally benefiting from this association. Gergiev, Matsuev, multiple others are indeed guilty, but not Khvorostovsky. He gave one not very carefully worded interview in 2014 to a local newspaper in one of the gods forsaken corners of Russia, and that is, which even the most hotheaded supporters of Ukraine were able to find on him.

      • Anon says:

        I wonder where this double standard comes from. Putin’s Russia of today is a political dwarf and small in effect, compared to the meddling – with devastating destruction as a result – the US did in the last decades in many parts of the world.
        Are people really so brainwashed to believe the US is “the good guys” and the millions murdered and the many more millions thrown back into the middle ages, due the actions of the US in the international arena, are just collateral damage for a good cause? How stupid can it get?

        • Lev Deych says:

          I am not sure who is brainwashed here and who is consciously working on behalf of criminal Putin’s regime. While USA is not without a sin but nothing US did is even closely comparable to the crimes of communist and Putin regimes is Russia. Equating these two countries is the ultimate manifestation of what Lenin called “useful idiots”

          • Anon says:

            Equating today’s Russia with the Soviet Union of the past is idiocy actually.
            The US has created much more destruction, turmoil and bloodshed since the downfall of the Soviet Union, than Putin could ever have dreamt about. Putin and his Russia actually are dwarfs, compared to the US. That he is blown up to such gigantic boogey man proportions, is simply to serve the agenda of the war mongering complex in the US et al.
            They need the brain washing detergent of evil Russia and bad man Putin for their agenda. See Murdoch’s press mercenaries above…

          • Sue says:

            Bravo. Watch some of the talks by Jordan Peterson!!

        • Maria says:

          Trial by media it seems to me. If it were so obviously, why hasn’t it been solved? They need to go in and sort them out!!!

      • Maria says:


  • Alex Davies says:

    “evidence of Russian meddling in opera long before the country had started influencing elections”

    What are they suggesting? The Kremlin rigged Cardiff Singer of the World?

    “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

  • Ruth says:

    I read The Times obituary in full and found it shocking. Shame on whoever wrote it using the cloak of anonymity, shame on the editor, shame on the newspaper. Hvorostovsky was a magnificent singer and a fine man, admired and respected by thousands.

  • Mercurius Londiniensis says:

    I, too, was surprised that this ill-judged obituary was published. I have written a number of Times obituaries — though not of musicians — and have also been asked to ‘look over’ some of those ‘in stock’ to check for fairness and accuracy. Precisely because Times obits are unsigned, and hence represent an impersonal assessment rather than an individual and perhaps idiosyncratic view, there is, entirely properly, pressure to get things right and to make judgements that will stand up.

    Still, we all make mistakes.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    When it comes to disseminating correct information, blogs like this have an opportunity to raise the bar. Seize it.

  • M2N2K says:

    His performance in the Red Square (June 2013) was with Anna Netrebko – not Renee Fleming. It is astonishing that the Times does not know the difference.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    This obituary was in equal measure stupid and disgusting. The degree of anti-Russian hysteria exceeds that of almost any period of the Cold War. The Russians appear to be meddling in everything from elections to opera. How refreshing that the US has never done anything of the sort.

  • Edgar says:

    Murdoch press excrement.

    • Sue says:

      I’m sure Rupert was on the phone or Skype dictating line by line what the article should say – as he does in everything printed in his news platforms. Sure, he gets no sleep – but when you’re a conspirator you don’t have time to sleep.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    As they say, give ’em enough rope…But seriously, since when has not decrying Vladimir Putin in the worst possible terms become a crime worthy of sentence without jury? Let’s get a bit of perspective, here.

  • shirley Love says:

    Dimitri Horovstovsky was a great artist greatly admired by his public and his fellow artists. Let him be given the honors and respect that he deserves.Shirley love

  • David A McKellar says:

    I frankly don’t know whom to believe here but I will say this: IF it is true that Dima was not Putin’s lap dog, I would be delighted to learn this.

  • Maria Zentai says:

    Vultures and jackals gathering to feed on the dead lion. Using and misusing his fame and his greatness to push forward their own egos or political purposes. Absolute lack of basic human decency. Shame on the person who wrote it and on the editor who let it be published. He is not even buried yet!!!!

  • Jack_Ewing says:

    Anti Russia propaganda from the Zio media even in obituaries now. The attacks on Vladimir Putin have escalated since 2013 when Russia destroyed the Zionist dream of regime change in Syria and exposed ISIS as a US/UK/Israel creation. No evidence whatsoever Russia changed one single vote last year. Or that it coordinated with the Trump campaign in any way, shape or form. Dmitri Hvorostovsky was a proud Russian but completely apolitical. This obituary is disgraceful.

  • tosh says:

    Well, they have arguments… It was obvious… Plus, he was tall and muscular, dressed in black on stage, sang war songs (and some folk songs which were Russian, see…) to vets (that were not US vets), with a ribbon and not a poppy, on the Red Square, had some money and received a couple of state medals. Wouldn’t he make a good oligarch and (or???) Putin’s favourite (I still think they better try with Medvedev for the arts specifically)…

    After reading some Ulanova’s obituaries more like Stalin’s obituaries, I am not really surprised. But this is worse.

  • Julia Kogan says:

    Thanks, Norman. He’s the one Russian singer I not only admired but loved. He gave so much of himself each time he sang, there must still be blood stains on the stage. Much relieved to know he was not a Putinik.

  • Jonathan Sutherland says:

    This once respected publication under Rupert Murdoch’s ownership has become a tawdry tabloid only slightly better than the justly defunct News of the World.
    Rupert’s concept of high culture is karoake singing kangaroos.
    Caveat lector.

    • Sue says:

      Or, as Harry Cohen of Columbia Pictures used to say, “give the people what they want and they’ll turn up for it”.

      • Andy says:

        Actually, it was Red Skelton, at Harry Cohn’s funeral, who looked around at the exceedingly well-attended service, and said to a friend, “Give people what they want and they’ll show up.”

  • John Russell says:

    Norman, Thanks for sharing this; I would have missed it.
    Really unfair and stupid obit.
    The only way for the amazing talents to have succeeded enough WITHIN Russia to be recognized internationally would be to perform for their own government, at least minimally–far short of endorsing Putin.( Not to mention Putin didn’t always appear to be quite the deadly dictator he is now known to be,)
    Even so, MUSIC is our one sure hope of communication between Russia and the “West” (as always, during the Cold War) and that requires State support of musicians and music institutions in Russia — with the attendant obsequiences.
    The fact that there is NO EVIDENCE of this in Hvorostovsky’s life makes him all the more remarkable! Apologies should be forthcoming from anyone critical of this beautiful artist and human being, Dmitri Hvorostovsky.❤️

  • Shirley Love says:

    Does all of this controversy really matter to those who know? We have lost a great artist of which there are not many left.I personally never worked with Dimitri Horovstovsky , my career was finishing as his began and for that I am truly sorry. But i spent many hours listening to his great artistry. Let us honor him and give the respect that he is due and be glad that he was able to join us for awhile . Shirley Love.

  • Sue says:

    It was behind a paywall and I disliked the moniker “The Elvis of opera”.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    “Brain cancer” is what we are told was the problem.

    Is an autopsy required in the UK? Are the results made public?

  • Frederick West says:

    This is the newspaper which published a fawning obit on John Potter, a supposed SOE (special operations executive) only to discover that they been duped by Potters’ Walter Mitty account of his derring dos a day or so later. I believe the original obit is on a page ‘no longer available’, well fancy that!

  • laurie says:

    from Anne Midgette’s lovely obituary in the Washington Post

    In a field rife with gossip, Hvorostovsky — after he stopped drinking in 2001 — was known as a good colleague and a good family man, radiantly happy with his second wife, Florence, and their two children, Nina and Maxim. (He also had twins from his first marriage, Daniel and Alexandra.) Born in Siberia, catapulted to fame when he won the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 1989 (beating out Bryn Terfel, who even had home-court advantage), he retained ties to his native country without supporting the political regime, recording albums of Soviet and Russian favorites as well as standard operatic fare

  • Elvira says:

    Ah,the Neapolitan songs! What a sensational interpretation,to melt.

  • ElviraLabis says:

    Ah,the Neapolitan songs! What a sensational interpretation,to melt.

  • Gaynor says:

    I have written a complaint to The Times.

  • Cathy says:

    Dmitri as a true artist lived and died a free man. He managed to have his cake and eat it too. He did it brilliantly, but he loved his country.

  • Susanne Hutter says:

    Dmitri was the best bariton singer i have Listened to and Max he rest in peace