Photo: Svetlana Dvoretsky (sunglasses on head) at Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s funeral.
I spoke with Svetlana Dvoretsky, founder and producer of Show One Productions, a full service production company that presents high-profile classical concerts. She recently returned from Moscow, where she attended the funeral of baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky (“Dima” to friends and family), who passed away from brain cancer November 22nd.
Liz: Svetlana, it was a terrible loss to the classical music world when Dmitri passed away. A couple of weeks have gone by now, but this loss must be as present as ever for you. He was someone you presented in concert, and you were personal friends as well. Please tell us about the first time you worked with him, and how long you’ve presented him in Canada.
Svetlana: Yes Liz … it’s a very hard loss to bear. Many people who knew Dima, including me of course, still cannot accept that he has gone. Just too hard to accept about man of such physical and spiritual power and who was always smiling … that he has left this world.
Liz: I understand. When was the last time you saw Dmitri? Did you sense this was goodbye?
Svetlana: I went to see Dima on his birthday on October 16 … I was at his house and it was the last time. It was apparent that he was struggling with his speech and couldn’t walk at all, but despite it all, he was extremely happy to see everyone – he smiled and looked satisfied. He spent about two hours with us, as long as he could. It was clear that this was goodbye.
Liz: You flew back to your home country of Russia to attend the funeral in Moscow. Tell us about the atmosphere, how the public reacted, and your thoughts when you were there.
Svetlana: It was very emotional and dramatic experience overall; I am sure many people watched the ceremony online. I tried to prepare myself mentally but at one point I was too crushed, and that was at the very end when thousands of people started clapping and screaming “Bravo!” The ceremony was held at the Tchaikovsky Hall and a number of political figures and famous artists were making speeches while a huge line of Dima’s fans was entering the hall and stopping by the stage to say a final goodbye. Tens of thousands of people… endless line up… a ton of flowers in the best of Russian tradition.
It was very quiet in the hall except a recording of Dima singing in the background and occasional songs by the choir. When the end of the service was announced, everyone got up and started to clap for over thirty minutes. While that was happening, the coffin was taken outside where ten thousand people gathered and created a corridor, throwing flowers on the pavement behind the men who carried the coffin to the car. That was truly heartbreaking; people simply showing how much Dima was loved by his people.
The next day, at the cemetery, an old woman approached me. She was dressed very poorly and crying. She told me she was a big fan and gave me 2000 rubles (about $45 Cdn, which I think might of been her full pension), asking me to wire this money to the hospice facility in London where Dima was taking treatment. She said she didn’t have a computer and doesn’t know how to do this, but she wants to do it in Dima’s name. That’s the impact he made on people’s life.
Liz: Wow … what a story. What was it about him that was so special, that set him apart from the others?
Svetlana: He was an incredible man who crushed all the stereotypes of being “a star”. He was a real, deep, kind man, and he became really philosophical towards to the end of his life. He was always thankful for everything he was able to achieve.
Liz: What quirk about Dmitri would surprise us, that we’d have no idea about?
Svetlana: He loved surprising people, fun to have around, love to make people laugh. He was extremely loyal, too.
Liz: He was a character. I remember teasing him about having to wear Sandra Radvanovsky’s dress pants for the cover shot of the “Verdi Opera Scenes” CD – he thought his bottom half wouldn’t show in the photo, so he showed up in faded blue jeans! Svetlana, you had a big hand in ensuring Toronto and Montreal audiences heard this legend in concert. That must be rewarding to know this ….
Svetlana: I received numerous emails from people who wrote to me how lucky they were to hear Dima here. I can’t begin to tell you how gratifying it is for me that I had a chance to work with him, being instrumental in presenting him in Canada. I know that people traveled from far parts of the world – Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to attend his last concert here in Toronto. I think he will have a hold on us for a long time, until it sinks in that he is gone. Despite how difficult it is for his friends and colleagues to absorb this loss, it’s unbearable for his kids, wife, and of course his parents. That is simply unimaginable. But his voice and his smile is here for eternity. He lived like a Hero, fought like a Hero, and died like one.
Liz: Thank you for answering these questions and please know the classical music community is grateful for your role in contributing to the cultural vibrancy here!
Show One Productions was formed in 2004, and is known for the uniqueness of its successful blend of North American entrepreneurship and a strong European cultural sensibility. Dmitri’s last performance in Toronto, April 27, 2017 at Four Seasons Centre with soprano Anna Nebrebko and tenor Yusif Eyvazov, was a Show One production. Show One’s upcoming presentation of Brodsky/Baryshnikov is at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto January 24 to January 28, and limited tickets are still available. showoneproductions.ca