SAN FRANCISCO (San Francisco Chronicle) — Lianna Haroutounian’s back-to-back Puccini performances with the San Francisco Opera in recent years — a formidable 2014 company debut as Tosca followed two years later by a delectable appearance in the title role of “Madama Butterfly” — served notice that the Armenian soprano was an important new presence on the operatic scene. Her contributions to both of those productions were marked by a memorable combination of vocal splendor and theatrical finesse.
On Saturday, November 25, Haroutounian returned to San Francisco to make her US recital debut in Herbst Theatre and demonstrated that those successes were no kind of fluke.
In a sumptuous and expressive program, superbly accompanied by pianist Tamara Sanikidze, Haroutounian brought her artistic powers to bear on a range of repertoire, including Italian and French opera, Russian songs and Armenian folk melodies as crafted by the musical priest Komitas. Each segment of the recital seemed to open up a window on some new corner of her artistry.
It’s not as though the triumph of this program could have come as much of a surprise. But the operatic stage and the vocal recital, in spite of their considerable overlap, draw on somewhat different combinations of skills, and success in one arena doesn’t necessarily translate to the other.
Yet Haroutounian wasted little time in demonstrating that the same qualities that had made her appearances at the War Memorial Opera House so memorable — rich-hued vocal tone, expansive breath control, a knack for shaping a melodic phrase into something at once grand and intimate — were in play here as well.