Tribute: What we have lost in Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Tribute: What we have lost in Dmitri Hvorostovsky


norman lebrecht

November 22, 2017

He was the kindest, friendliest, most immaculate of opera singers.

In a world where egos rage and talent is measured by the size of fees, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who died today, stood apart, in a class of his own. No-one ever had a word to say against him.

Raised in Siberia, an only child, he won a couple of Russian competitions before bursting onto the world scene, running away with the BBC’s Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 1989, ahead of the hotly-favoured Welsh baritone, Bryn Terfel.

He went on to play every major opera house in the world, charming one and all with the ease of his musicality and his unfailing good nature. He was the foremost Eugene Onegin of our time, the sexiest Don Giovanni, the dominant Rigoletto, a role he sings in his final recording, released just last week. It would be invidious, at this moment of grief, to single out one performance or another: all were stamped uniquely with his character.


He was also a formidable concert recitalist, eagerly sought as a partner by the leading sopranos. He wore his fame with humility, ever alert to the needs of the less fortunate and frequently turning up to sing in charity fund-raisers.


After a failed first marriage, he found deep contentment in London with Florence and their children.

Like every Russian artist, Dmitri was put under considerable pressure to declare his support for Vladimir Putin. He bravely and notably refrained from doing so, all the while continuing to give recitals in far-flung parts of Russia where he was loved as a man of the people.

In quarter of a century he never put a foot wrong. And when cancer struck he handled his shrinking horizons with delicacy and unfailing candour. At 55, he was cut off in his prime.

He will forever be remembered for the greatness of his voice. But we must never forget his humanity.

UPDATE: You can read this post in Chinese here.


  • Edgar Schaffarczyk says:

    Whoever heard him sing knows we lost a special artist and we are all poorer for the loss. May his soul Rest In Peace.

  • Abigail Prohaska says:

    Such a great loss. Requiescat in Pace Dmitri and sing with the angels.

  • Sandy Holland says:

    A tragic to the world.

  • Sandy Holland says:

    Sorry – a tragic loss to the world.

  • Sue says:

    I’m desperately sorry to hear about this. Absolutely dreadful.

  • Ungeheuer says:


  • Nancy Wight says:

    Stricken with sadness. Nancy Wight

  • Cliff Hilton says:

    What an utterly tragic loss. I will never forget his Pearl Fishers duet with Jonas Kaufman. So sad r.i.p. Dmitri.

  • Douglas Lee says:

    A tragic loss to the world of singing and to the world itself. Thank you for the music, Dmitri, may you rest in peace.

  • Pamela Tancsik says:

    Dmitri Hvorostovsky –
    What a loss for the music world. One of the greatest baritons ever, silky timbre, sexy looks and what a charming and wonderful human being. Unforgotten for sure. Pamela Tancsik

  • Olga says:

    Very sad news. A big loss for the world of music and to the whole world of people who understand and love art and theater. He was a special opera singer and a great personality. His voice will sound for me forever.

  • Anna Eckerberg says:

    Dmitri Hvorostovsky – Hearing him live at Malmoe Live Concert Hall in Sweden in September last year 2016 was an experience beyond description. As a final and 3rd extra song he sang a Russian ballad a capella about lost love and broken heart. You could have dropped a needle after he closed. I heard quiet sobbing from behind and then the audience almost tore the house down. “….and may the Lord hold you in his hands ….” Anna Eckerberg, Sweden

  • Fabio Luisi says:

    Thank you for your words, Norman.
    He was indeed one of the kindest singers I ever worked with – and we worked extensively together, especially at the Metropolitan Opera.
    Always a good word for everybody and a helping and positive attitude.
    My wife and I will miss him a lot.

    • Susan Jancso says:

      I did not know him personally but he changed my view of Russia and its people. Seeing old women – and men- dry their tears as he sang…

  • Barbara says:

    Reading all this through a veil of tears…
    I knew this was going to happen, but why, of all the people, did it have to be Dmitri.
    My thoughts are with his family.

  • Jory Vinikour says:

    An astonishing and unique artist, and a truly delightful man. May he Rest In Peace.

  • Geoff Bell says:

    Devasted to hear of the untimely death of Dimitri. When I first saw him perform on TV at the 1969 Cardiff Singer of the World I new he was destined for greatness in his field. He sang in Dublin in the week following his success in Cardiff and I was fortunate to attend his appearances. May he Rest In Peace.

    • Steve Kirby says:

      Geoff Bell I agree. A great singer loved by all kinds of audiences, not just classical music lovers. (The Cardiff Singer of the World competition he won was in 1989 not 1969).

  • Yolanda Savino-Walsh says:

    There are few words to express the sadness and loss to his dear family, friends and the opera world. Shattered.

  • Kristina Pax says:

    The hardest farewell in my life.

  • Barbara Kamler-Wild says:

    What a great artist, what an extraordinary man, what a loss!

  • Liau Chungshiu says:

    Devastated..Heart Broken..the World can never fill the gap you have left..we love you, Dimitri, truly a Great Maestro. Thank you Sir, for being born, and show us beauty of music through your majestic will be remembered and missed for eternity. Please Rest now, in Peace, Dear Dimitri. Weeping, from Hong Kong.

  • Margaret Trunk says:

    Speechless. He was too young, too talented. The world will be a poorer place without him

  • Laura says:

    I am absolutely devastated. The world of opera will be a sadder place without him but may his voice live on in his recordings and in our hearts.
    RIP Dmitri

  • Nancy Wilken says:

    At Carnegie Hall BO 11/23 attempting to exchange a subscription ticket to Met Orchestra for The Chicago Symphony,
    just broke down to BO– the remembrance of his singling alone a Siberian folk song stunned the house as an encore.
    The sharing of himself– at a Guild talk at Rose displayed such humanism and humility. That solo Siberian folk song
    I will always hear above all his roles that I was privileged to hear at The Met. Let’s be thankful this artist was
    among us for the years given to him by God.

    • Susan Jancso says:

      I was touched by Nochenka as well. I told him when asking for an autograph, and he made a joke! He said it was “just a drinking song”…

  • Sue Barner says:

    I was greeted by this unwelcome news yesterday morning, and a black cloud has been with me ever since. I have spent countless hours listening to his voice and this loss feels so personal. I send my deepest condolences to his friends and family and to all of the other fans who, like me, can’t believe he is gone.

  • Ayçe Reyhan Barışık says:

    With his death the world has become a less place. I will miss him deeply. RIP dear Dima king of the hearts.

  • Corinne Lyons says:

    Such a great loss to the world of music. I will always remember all of your beautiful music. May you rest in peace, free of suffering and sing with the angels.

  • Berta Orhon says:

    We were fortunate enough to see this great artist at a concert in Istanbul in 2007.
    His voice and his charisma will stay with us forever.

  • Marlene Amry says:

    The angels call the young to them, as you left your family, music colleagues and multitude of admirers. Farewell.

  • Marlene Amry says:

    Angels seeked his company, leaving his family, colleagues and multitude of admirers, to mourn their great loss.

  • Anja Lindström says:

    Vechnaya Pamyat! Eternal Memory!

  • Nioclas O Floinn says:

    A terrible loss for his family. We,his admirers, lost one of the greatest singers of our time. I always enjoyed his appearances with fellow world class performers when suddenly one could see a mischievous glint in his eye and some hilarious moments followed. A gracious person whose humility preceded his magnificent talent. Rest in peace. Your loss is truly felt around the world. May God console his family.

    • Susan Jancso says:

      You took notice of that “mischievous glint”. I saw it in “Urna fatale” when people started to applaud before it was over… Nothing went by unnoticed by him.

  • Leslie Pellegrini says:

    With tears in my eyes, I am devastated by Dimitri’s passing. I knew him and sang with him at the beginning of career!. The voice was astoundingly beautiful and the humanity of this man touched everyone he came in contact with. There will never be another Dmitri The world is not fair to take someone with so much to live for and so much to give. RIP, Dmitri, we will forget you1

  • Di Trower says:

    I didn’t know of Dmitri Hvorostrovsky until I read about his untimely death. I have been listening to his beautiful voice on a daily basis since then, struck by the beauty of his voice, and person. I have particularly loved hearing him singing the songs of his country, whether traditional or classical. A man with such an amazing voice, and who has been a loving husband father and friend to many, will never be forgotten. His legacy lives. My condolences to his dear family and friends.

  • The photographs which have not been seen and personal facts which have not been told: the unique Hvorostovsky family album is the first time on display at the Museum of Krasnoyarsk railroad.

    • Kristina Pax says:

      Dear Ivan. Thank you. Yours is an important information on my beloved, noble Dmitri Aleksandrovich. He lives forever in my heart. My entire, deeply grieving soul, soaks all data posted on our greatest artist, that ever walked this earth. He was a true genius.

  • Susan Jancso says:

    This is a beautiful tribute, and must be true. All Dima wanted was to sing, and he did almost beyond the impossible. He was a gift to us all. May he Rest In Peace. Susan from Hungary

  • Susan Jancso says:

    I came late to this forum. It is his birthday now, October 16, and I don’t see any news of the Moscow and Leningrad memorial concerts. Susan from Hungary