It was clear from the cheers Saturday evening at the Lisner Auditorium that the audience had turned out in numbers to hear Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava perform with the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra.
Gerzmava delighted the crowd with arias and songs that showcased her artistry. From selections from Bellini’s “Norma” and Verdi’s “I masnadieri,” and from Poulenc’s “Les Chemins de l’amour” and Ernesto de Curtis’s “Ti voglio tanto bene,” Gerzmava owned the stage with her sparkly soprano. Though her voice filled the hall effortlessly, it was her understated moments, made possible by the finely calibrated Moscow Virtuosi, that stood out — especially in Bellini’s “Casta Diva,” where her subdued sound made for a captivating performance. Gerzmava’s muscular vibrato in Verdi’s “Stretto” gave way to fluid, tender singing in “Ecco … lo son l’umile ancella,” from Francesco Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur.”
While Gerzmava’s arias were a highlight of the concert — presented by the Cherry Orchard Festival — there was much else to cheer about. The Moscow Virtuosi offered up several diverse chamber works that not only anchored the program but also revealed the group’s versatility and fastidious nature. Under the baton of artistic director Vladimir Spivakov, the Virtuosi’s 25 string players displayed a seamless blend of tonality, intonation, musicality and technique in Mozart’s Divertimento No. 1 in D Major, K. 136. In Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony in C Minor, Op. 110, the Virtuosi let loose a generous dynamic range and punctuated their rhythms precisely while reveling in the deeper harmonics of Edvard Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies, Op. 34.
The evening also featured teenage cellist Danielle Akta. Smiling with joy, Akta made her instrument both sing — with a big vibrato in Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, Op. 47 for Cello and Orchestra — and dance, with fired-up fingerwork in David Popper’s Concert Polonaise, Op. 14 for Cello and Orchestra.
Two encores, Gerzmava singing Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” and Richard Strauss’s “Morgen!” with Spivakov on violin, brought the house down.