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Anna Netrebko - Operatic Arias
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Quandro avran fine omai... Padre, germani, addio! (Idomeneo) [7'23] Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Crudele?... Ah, no, mio bene!... Non, mi dir [6'37]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Les belles fleurs!...Quand j'aurai votre age (Bevenuto Cellini) [7'44]
Jules MASSENET (1842 - 1912) Suis-je gentille ainsi?... Obéissons, quand leur voix appelle (Manon) [6'35]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) Ancor non glunse!.... Regnava nel silenzio (Lucia di Lammermoor) [12'42]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801 - 1835) Care compagne.... Come per me sereno (Las Sonnambula) [7'44]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893) Les grands seigneurs... Ah! Je ris de me voir (Faust) [6'28]
Antonin DVORAK (1841-1904) Song to the Moon (Rusalka) [5'07]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Musette's Waltz (La Bohème) [2'39]
Anna Netrebko (soprano)
Vienna State Opera Chorus
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda
rec Sept 2003
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 474 240-2 [67:45]

While opera is not my forte the voice is ... and here is a voice. Having seen Netrebko sing at a BBC Promenade Concert on 7 September 1996 with the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Gergiev, I was taken with this voice. On that occasion she sang Edison Denisov's superb orchestration of Mussorgsky's song cycle The Nursery and the audience were enthralled. It was simply magnificent, one of those rare musical experiences that one will never forget. The whole concert was excellent, something almost unique for a BBC Promenade Concert. There was Prokofiev's greatest symphony, number 6 in E flat minor (see the article on this site) and Debussy's La Mer.

I have to say at once that the sound on this DG disc is first rate but the glory is the voice.

It is a pure voice with a very secure intonation. It has a wide range of expression and, in the main, is unaffected. However, I do shudder at the ghastly portamenti at the end of arias and the fact that all singers do this in opera is really no excuse. From the very first phrase we are aware that we are in for something very special. Listen to the variety of tone and colour utterly in keeping with such texts as, "O God, what a conflict of shattering of warring emotions you war in my breast...." The music, particularly in the long recitative, is somewhat mediocre, although Noseda brings out some fascinating detail from the orchestra, but the singing is quite remarkable and totally persuasive.

The Mozart is strong and does not conform to the usual feeble effeminacy or lightness of performance. The top notes are thrilling and the closeness of the recording makes it very much alive. You are on the stage with the singer not twelve rows back in the stalls. The music is not outstanding but the voice is.

Here Ilia wonders whether Idamante really loves her or Electra. But who on earth cares? This is Mozart with drama, sung not only by a very fine singer but a splendid actress as well. In the nicest sense of the word the performance is shattering.

We move on to Donna Anna lamenting being thought cruel to the one she loves. The singing has a controlled passion as she vows that she is true. She does not pile on the agony as some singers do. The quality of her voice is all that is required and even if you do not know what she is singing about the content is quite obvious. That is the proof of a great singer. As a great conductor once said, "the emotion has to be in the music first since no performer can bring out what is not there." However, he also said, "The sign of a bad performance is when they bring out emotions that are not there and accentuate it!"

The Berlioz excerpts are also impeccably sung but, again, the music is not outstanding

It is in Manon that the finest singing comes. It has already been superlative. How can it be better? I had to listen to it three times as it was so exciting, exhilarating and aided by the fact the music was the best so far on this disc. The disc would be worth its price for this six and a half minutes.

The Donizetti is prefaced by some pretty inept orchestral music in which the harp has an important role but the entry of the voice is a welcome relief. Here Elina Garanca sings the secondary role of Alice.

Vincenzo Bellini is an under-rated composer and what tenderness the singer brings to the role of Amina. She sings of her happiness which is shared by the villagers. The composer could have easily succumbed to writing exuberant banal music but thankfully he does not . After all, real happiness and joy is not swigging from a beer glass or being energetic or vigorous at a party. Real joy cannot be expressed adequately (if you really think about it) but Bellini does give us a burst of cheerfulness. The attention should be given to those thrilling tessituras. The closing bars are beyond excitement.

The role of Marguerite in Gounod's Faust is a sublime role. Here the recitative and Jewel Song are given heart-warming and unforgettable performances. It reveals another remarkable quality of Netrebko's voice. It sounds young and makes the usual problem of middle-aged opera singers with middle-age voices singing about young love, or even first love, more ridiculous. I shall never forget a 47 year old of 20 stone in weight singing Juliet. She was brilliant but the image was not.

Rusalka's appeal to the moon to find her lover is the only operatic aria by Dvořák that is widely known. Netrebko starts very inauspiciously but do not despair. The control is super and there is no attempt at nauseating tear-jerking. The simplicity is caught to perfection.

The popular Musetta's Waltz is given a thrilling performance as opposed to the usual slushy sentimental wallow. As with all performances on this disc the control is totally amazing, the voice is simply tremendous and the high notes send shivers down the spine. Impressive in the extreme and utterly convincing. And Noseda and the orchestra carefully avoid the maudlin effects as well.

Another Welshman said that in perfection there is imperfection and I am sorry to note that Netrebko has sung some music that is not worthy of her . While she says that Mozart's Zerlina is an awful role so is Mahler's Symphony no. 4.

Such an incredible voice (we have not heard such a voice since Callas at her best, but I hasten to say that she is not another Callas) should be reserved for worthy music. In addition, it is almost heart-breaking to learn that Netrebko likes Robbie Williams and Christine Aguilera! Oh dear!

But it is the voice. She can only continue to win hearts. She will put many in the shade but, as for me, she has lifted me to a great height and renewed my faith in my belief that the finest instrument in the world is the voice

David C F Wright

see also

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Anna Netrebko - Sempre libera Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) La traviata: E’ strano … Ah, fors’è lui … sempre libera; Otello: Era più calmo? … Mia madre aveva una povera ancella … Piangea cantando nell’erma landa (Canzone del Salice) …Ave Maria Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835) La sonnambula: Ah! Se una volta sola … Ah! Non credea mirarti … Ah! Non giunge uman pensiero, I puritani: O rendetemi la speme … Qui la voce sua soave … Ah! Tu sorridi e asciughi il pianto … Vien, diletto Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) Lucia di Lammermoor: O giusto cielo! … Il dolce suono … Ohimè" … sorge il tremendo fantasma … Ardon gli incensi … Spargi d’amaro pianto Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Gianni Schicchi: O mio babbino caro Anna Netrebko (soprano) Sara Mingardo (mezzo-soprano), Saimir Pirgu (tenor), Nicola Ulivieri (bass-baritone), Andrea Concetti (bass), Sascha Reckart (glass harmonica) Coro Sinfonico di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Claudio Abbado Recorded February-March 2004 at the Teatro Municipale Valli of Reggio Emilia SACD Surround, SACD Stereo, CD Audio DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00289 474 8812 [68:59] [CH]

Potentially the best soprano news since Caballé. ... see Full Review




After a very difficult time in my life I went to a BBC Promenade Concert on 7 September 1996 to see the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Valery Gergiev performing that towering masterpiece the Symphony no. 6 by Prokofiev.

After the interval and before Debussy's La Mer a young Russian soprano by the name of Anna Netrebko came out to sing a truly superb orchestration by Edison Denisov of Mussorgsky's song cycle The Nursery. That soprano seemed so diminutive but she was quite sensational in her performance being able to be a child and a grandmother with equal success in about 15 minutes. Like everyone in the Royal Albert Hall I was spellbound by the truly exceptional and, indeed, unique singing. If the building had caught fire or there was an earthquake we would all have stayed to hear this stunning performance.

Rosa Ponselle was a great soprano. Callas was superb. Netrebko is in the same class.

There is a wonderful story of two other great sopranos in which Lotte Lehmann asked Geraldine Farrar, "Where does one get such a voice as Ponselles?"

The reply was, "Only from God!"

Someone has written of Netrebko, "Here is a singer who simply has it all, a voice of astounding purity, precision and scope, extensive dynamic and tonal range, imagination, insight and wit, all combined with a dazzling charisma that makes it all but impossible to look away when she is performing."

Anna was born on 18 September 1971 in Krasnodar in southern Russia. Her father Yuri is a geologist and her mother's name is Larissa. Anna was very competent at gymnastics but did not take to certain sports including basketball and apparently does not have much sympathy with computers.

It is understood that her first stage experience was at the age of sixteen as the back half of a firebird in Rimsky-Korsakov's Le Coq d'Or and her first job was in scrubbing floors at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg which housed the Kirov Ballet.

Her first voice coach was Tamara Novichenko and her mentors are the fine soprano Renata Scotto and Gergiev. Her training was at the St Petersburg Conservatory. It was at the Mariinsky Theatre that she made her debut as Susanna in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro in 1994. She was 22 years old. This was followed by the role of Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata.

In 1993 also she had won first prize at the Glinka Vocal Competition in Moscow taking part in a concert at the opening of the Irina Arkhipova Foundation at the Bolshoi Theatre.

She repeated the role of Susanna on the Kirov's tours of Finland, Germany and Israel. She learns and performs other roles including Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Amina in Bellini's La sonnambula, Rosina in Rossini's Barber of Seville, Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute, Michaela in Bizet's Carmen and Louisa in Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery.

On graduating from St Petersburg Conservatory she made a sensational debut in San Francisco as Ludmilla in Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmilla and, understandably, has been welcome in that city ever since.

In 1996 she was a prize winner at the International Rimsky-Korsakov Singing Competition in St Petersburg and in September I discovered her, as did thousands of others, in London's Albert Hall. This is followed the next year by her winning the Baltika Prize for young opera singers in St Petersburg.

In 1998 she repeated Susanna in San Francisco and then gave her first solo recital with songs by Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninov.

To compare her again with Ponselle, the conductor Serafin said of Ponselle that her voice was a miracle, an expression now used of Anna Netrebko.

Another successful debut was in Washington in 1999 as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto. She sang in three concert performances of Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and London each time conducted by Gergiev.

She wisely took a different avenue in the year 2000 by singing in Bach's Mass in B minor and in Handel's Judas Maccabaeus at the Maggio Musicale in Florence. But opera still dominated her career and she sang Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni, a role she says is awful and one admires her honesty. She made a super Musetta in Puccini's La Boheme, repeated Lucia and sang the role of Antonia in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman, a lighter role to show her versatility. Her greatest acclaim was for Natasha in Prokofiev's War and Peace under Gergiev both at the Mariinsky and Covent Garden, London. The following year she triumphed in this role at La Scala, Milan and the Teatro Real in Madrid.

Such a busy life needs relaxation, She hates golf and it reminds us of that wise Welsh comment that golf is a good walk spoiled. She hates business but enjoys friends, shopping, modern cinema, (her favourite movie is Dracula) eating and discotheques. In 2004 she won a can-can competition at a St Petersburg nightclub! Oh dear!

But there are more surprises to come. She likes Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams and Christina Aguilera .... how sad!

But to return to real music. Reluctantly she repeated the role of Zerlina and performed Ilia in Mozart's Idomeneo, Adina in L'elisir d'amore by Donizetti, Nanetta in Verdi's Falstaff and as Marfa in The Tsar's Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov.

During 2001/2002 she made her Metropolitan debut in War and Peace and her debut at the Salzburg Festival is as Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Her debut in Philadelphia was as Giulietta in The Montagues and Capulets by Bellini. Lucia is repeated for the Kirov and at the Verbier Festival she sang in the awful Symphony no. 4 by Mahler under James Levine, music that is so beneath her and not worthy of her talent.

She has also sung in Mahler's Second Symphony.

The 2003-4 season saw her return to Covent Garden as Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni under Sir Colin Davis. Her debut with the Los Angeles opera was as Lucia and recital at the Herbst festival with Donald Runnicles. Back in Europe she sang Violetta in Munich under Zubin Mehts and as Donna Anna in Vienna. In Japan she makes her debut with the Saito Kinen Festival under the splendid Seiji Ozawa as Musetta which role she repeated in San Francisco. At the Verbier Festival, there was a recital and a performance of Rigoletto under James Levine.

She hates long airplane journeys but returned to Salzburg to sing Giulietta in The Montagues and the Capulets by Bellini.

Her debut CD album was for DG (474 240 - 2) (reviewed above)

Even in perfection there is imperfection. She is a modern miss with some of the unfortunate aspects associated with current life styles. The Russian philosophy she says is that all Russians want some 'shit' in their lives, something that goes wrong or they want something to worry about and if life was always happy that would be suspicious.

Nonetheless she is a star but one regrets her being presented glamorously.

Sadly in music today we have cross-over situations such as concerts including Beethoven with Johann Strauss, Mozart with slushy orchestrations of songs by the Beatles and great opera stars singing masterpieces and trashy pop music!

Oh for musical discernment!

Let us hope that Anna Netrebko stays on the straight and narrow!


Copyright David C F Wright 2003.

This article or any part of it, however small, must not be used or copied in any way whatsoever or downloaded or stored in any retrieval system without the prior written consent of the author. Failure to comply is a breach of copyright and it is illegal and theft and will render the offender liable to action at law.


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