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Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón - Duets
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
La bohème: O soave fanciulla [4:10]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor: Lucia, perdona … Sulla tomba che rinserra [12:40]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Rigoletto: Giovanna, ho dei rimorsi … È il sol dell’anima [8:19] *
Charles GOUNOD (1818–1893)
Roméo et Juliette: Va! je t’ai pardonné … Nuit d’hyménée! [13:23]
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)
Les Pêcheurs de perles: De mon amie … Leïla! … Dieu puissant, le voilà! [9:00]
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
Manon: Toi! Vous! / Oui, c’est moi! … N’est-ce plus ma main [8:05]
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Iolanta: Tvoyo molčan’ye neponyatno [10:03]
Federico MORENO TORROBA (1891–1982)
Luisa Fernanda: ¡Cállate corazón! [5:28]
Anna Netrebko (soprano), Rolando Villazon (tenor)
Nadine Weissmann (mezzo)*, Nicola Luisotti (baritone)*
Staatskapelle Dresden/Nicola Luisotti
rec. Lukaskirche, Dresden, August 2006. DDD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 6457 [71:08]

I wonder if the “Golden Couple” are getting too much exposure at the moment. It was “Anna Netrebko and Friends” for a Mozart disc in the autumn of 2006, followed by her Russian album, then both of them featured on a DVD “The Berlin Concert” together with Domingo, while Villazón starred on a Monteverdi disc and then, only weeks ago, Virgin released his highly acclaimed Zarzuela album, conducted by Domingo.
Here they are together again on a generously filled duet disc with a judicious mix of expected war-horses and a couple of rarities. There is no denying the standard of the singing and both are careful with expression and nuance but not everything is quite up to expectation. Sometimes Ms Netrebko is too generous with her vibrato, which can assume a metallic hardness, robbing the voice of some of its warmth. When the two sing in unison this metal, precious though it is, tends to become noticeable. Being brought up on the de los Angeles/Björling Bohème duet I miss the lovely shyness of de los Angeles. I also think it is a strange piece of programming to open the recital with this duet, where at the end they walk out, but perhaps their ending the duet an octave up and at fortissimo is a secret signal that “we are only faking this exit, we’ll be back in a moment.” It seems to me that Villazón is the one who gets deepest under the skin of the characters, while Anna Netrebko for all her golden tone and sensitive phrasing is more generalised. One misses for instance some of the sorrow and pain in the Lucia duet, which otherwise is among the best. Her Gilda is better but here it is still Villazón who steals the show with his oily cajoling of the phrases at the beginning of the Rigoletto duet.
In the atmospheric and ravishingly beautiful duet from Roméo et Juliette there’s that metallic edge again but she also sings the most lovely pianissimos at will and Villazón almost challenges Gedda in his honeyed soft singing. The Pècheurs duet is more of a rarity and both singers make a good case for it with Villazón so beautiful in Ton coeur n’a pas compris le mien. The Manon duet has both singers on top form and in the two concluding numbers they get an opportunity to sing in their mother tongue, Ms Netrebko in the Tchaikovsky duet, where Villazón is properly fiery in his solo Čudnïy dar prirodi večnïy and Villazón in Moreno Torroba’s Luisa Fernanda, where Anna Netrebko magically rounds off the duet and the disc. The Dresden Staatskapelle strings appear less warm than they usually are but the playing is excellent under Nicola Luisotti, who also make a couple of cameos in the Rigoletto duet, singing both Borsa’s and Ceprano’s few words. Full text and translations of course and quite extensive liner notes by Nick Kimberley.
Even though I was a little less enthusiastic than when I reviewed their respective latest solo recitals I still found a lot that was to my liking, so the “Golden Couple” soubriquet still seems apt.
Göran Forsling


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