This collection of all-Russian arias finds the celebrated Ukrainian bass just past his prime in his mid-fifties. By this time the voice has begun to loosen a little and occasionally sound a little rough. He had, after all, been singing an astonishing variety of heavy roles for thirty years.
Nonetheless, he is clearly a great actor and a formidable musician. Despite his versatility, the bulk of this disc is devoted not only to Russian opera in general as his forte but specifically to his most famous role as Boris. This is a really striking assumption and as a bonus we get his Varlaam. The recording itself is constricted and some of the singing and playing is a bit scrappy; even so the majesty of his Tsar Boris emerges unscathed. In addition the supporting singers are impressive, especially the silky-voiced Shuisky, Ilya Tamarin. Kipnis is not as extrovert as Chaliapin or Christoff, nor as smooth as Reizen, but represents a middle way between the two. He commands a remarkable tonal and dynamic range and wholly inhabits the role. Both the clock and death scenes are riveting when his snarling and declaiming compete with the applied effects of the best exponents of the role.
He brings the same variety to the comic arias but to totally different effect, pulling out all the stops in “The Song of the Flea” complete with manic cackling and an infectious inventiveness.
A compelling disc which should appeal to all lovers of great bass voices, especially those in Russian opera.
Ralph Moore, Musicweb-international.com