Notes and Editorial Reviews
ANNA NETREBKO LIVE AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA
Anna Netrebko (s); various,cond; Metropolitan Op O & Ch
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON B0015987-02 (65:58
Text and Translation)
Arias and ensembles from
War and Peace.
Don Pasquale. Lucia di Lammermoor.
Roméo et Juliette.
Les Contes d’Hoffmann.
This latest CD release from soprano Anna Netrebko features highlights from her performances at the Metropolitan Opera. The cuts apparently are all taken from Met broadcasts or HD telecasts streamed to movie theaters. The production appears to be a win-win-win project for the opera house, the recording label, and, of course, Netrebko herself. The Met has gotten the publicity and the buzz surrounding the release of the CD, timed to coincide with Netrebko’s first season premiere at the house last September as Gaetano Donizetti’s regal Anna Bolena. The recording label, Deutsche Grammophon, has gotten all the musical material for a new Netrebko release without having to pay for a recording session or hire an orchestra, and the singer gets the publicity and the money from a recording that showcases some of her best roles.
The disc also celebrates the 10th anniversary of Netrebko’s career start at the Met, her early 2002 appearance as the Russian princess Natasha in Prokofiev’s
War and Peace,
when she was introduced to the house by her early mentor, conductor and impresario Valery Gergiev. In the booklet, Met general manager Peter Gelb relates the story of how, even before he took over the reins at the New York opera house, he pursued Netrebko to Vienna and then Salzburg to get her agreement to a long-term relationship with the Met. The Russian soprano has certainly not disappointed Gelb’s expectations; she along with, perhaps, Angela Gheorghiu, Renée Fleming, and Natalie Dessay have provided the Met with the major diva power that has put fannies in the seats over the past decade, and her current collaborations with the house show little sign of declining popularity. It is rumored on the street that Netrebko will complete Donizetti’s queen cycle at the Met in coming seasons singing leads in both
as previous New York favorite Beverly Sills once did at New York City Opera.
Netrebko was already signed on for another Sills stunt, singing all the major female roles in Offenbach’s
Les Contes d’Hoffmann
. She wisely pulled back and sang only two of the roles, one of which, Antonia, appears here, in a duet with Hoffmann. That selection also illustrates another facet of this recording, the generous assistance Netrebko receives from other fine singers. Only five cuts are solo arias; the remainder are ensemble pieces of one type or another. The Prokofiev excerpt is a trio sung with Ekaterina Semenchuk and another Met favorite, baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Netrebko’s voice in her first appearance sounds lighter, more the silvery young lyric, and the recorded sound is a bit distant and unfocused, as if the Met sound engineers were still getting their bearings. The cut from audience favorite
is the act III finale with Netrebko’s Norina accompanied by Mariusz Kwiecien, Simone Alaimo, and Juan Diego Flórez; Netrebko gets to demonstrate her comedic talents as well as her fine voice. Later comes a rather odd choice from Verdi’s
, the act III trio with Sparafucile and Maddalena instead of one of Gilda’s better-known pieces, sung with Nancy Fabiola and Eric Halfvarson. The excerpt does allow the star soprano to show off her distinctive, dusky midrange and to add emotive colors to her characterization.
Netrebko sings a love duet with Roberto Alagna from Gounod’s
Roméo et Juliette
, and another with Piotr Beczala from Puccini’s
, as well as the above-mentioned piece from
with Joseph Calleja. Two more scenes, from Bellini’s
Lucia di Lammermoor
, both recorded by Netrebko on previous releases, demonstrate her lovely, secure top range (and the famous glass harmonica) as well as her rather careful way with
fioratura. Netrebko sings all the notes and doesn’t smudge, but she doesn’t go at it with quite the relish of Sills or Sutherland, or even Pons. Her strengths lie elsewhere, and they are amply on display: the velvet burnished tones, the hint of wild danger when on high, and the emotional depth and commitment she works to put into her roles. The other solo pieces heard include Zerlina’s simple little aria to the injured Masetto, Mimi’s sad goodbye aria from act III of
and the potion aria from
Roméo et Juliette
. All are chosen wisely and well performed. The Met Opera Orchestra is peerless, as usual, with several conductors on the podium.
Some of the operas excerpted here are available in full with Netrebko on DVD, at the Met and elsewhere. The booklet contains texts and English translations along with photographs from all of the productions heard. Audio quality is excellent except for my minor reservation over the Prokofiev. The audience applauds but does not intrude on the singing. I am glad to have several Netrebko performances in my library, this one now included. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Bill White