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Souvenirs - Anna Netrebko
Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882–1953)
Die Csárdásfürstin:
Heia, in den Bergen [3.26]
Richard HEUBERGER (1850–1914)
Der Opernball:
Im Chambre séparée [4.04], with Piotr Beczala (tenor)
Franz LÉHAR (1870–1948)
Giuditta:
Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss [5.39]

Gustave CHARPENTIER (1860–1956)
Louise:
Depuis le jour [5.18]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819–1880)
Les Contes d'Hoffmann:
Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour (Barcarolle) [3.43]
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Cäcilie
, op. 27 no. 2 [1.56]; Wiegenlied, op. 41 no. 1 [4.12]
Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
Peer Gynt:
Solveigs Sang [5.00]
André MESSAGER (1853–1929)
Fortunio:
Lorsque je n'étais qu'une enfant [2.05]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Gypsy Melodies:
Kdyz mne stará matka, op. 55 no. 4 [3.06]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844–1908)
Ne veter, veya s vesote
, op. 43 no. 2 [2.09];
Plenivsis' rozoy, solovey, op. 2 no. 2 (Oriental Romance) [3.14]
Andrew LLOYD WEBBER (b. 1948)
Requiem:
Pie Jesu [3.42]
Reynaldo HAHN (1874–1947)
L'Énamouré
(arr. Andreas N. Tarkmann) [3.22]
Carlos GUASTAVINO (1912–2000)
La rosa y el sauce
(arr. by Guillo Espel) [2.25]  
Gerónimo GIMÉNEZ (1854–1923)
La tempranica:
La tarántula é un bicho mú malo (Zapateado) [1.32] 
Luigi ARDITI (1822–1903)
Il bacio
(arr. by Leo Petri) [3.48]
Traditional Jewish Schlof sche, mein Vögele [3.32], arr. by Friedrich Meyer
Anna Netrebko (soprano)
Andrew Swait (boy soprano, Lloyd Webber)
Elďna Garanča (mezzo-soprano, Offenbach)
Prague Philharmonic Choir/Lukáš Vasilek
Prague Philharmonia/Emmanuel Villaume
rec. Rudolfinum (Dvořák Hall), Prague, Czech Republic, March 2008
Booklet notes in English and French, with sung texts enclosed in original languages and translations in English (all tracks), plus German and French translations where these are not the original lyrics
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 7639 [63.02]
Experience Classicsonline

Anna Netrebko is one of my favourite sopranos; owner of a beautifully rich, voluptuous voice, with good acting skills and capable of expressive, extroverted performances, which always enchant audiences. She has it all - her artistic talent matched by her glamorous image and striking good looks. With this background, it is perhaps logical that her latest recorded recital, Souvenirs, centres on feminine glamour. This is immediately obvious from the packaging which features carefully staged photographs that showcase her beauty and sex appeal. Opening the CD case, it is obvious that this is a very “girlie” affair: all pink, with flowers and butterflies! The text of the CD booklet is in a florid, unnecessarily elaborate style where information about the music is sometimes lost amid the exaggerated praise. It gives the impression that not only should this album go unquestioned but also that one should be grateful that Netrebko decided to create it. This is supposedly - and I quote: “her most intimate recording ever”. With this work she is said to be following “... in the tradition of such opera luminaries as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Joan Sutherland and Plácido Domingo, all of whom produced acclaimed recitals of lighter music”. After all this, disappointment was beginning to set in and it was with some hesitation that I sat down finally to listen to the CD. However, as I did so, my mind began to change in its favour. This lavish compilation suits Netrebko’s lively personality and rich soprano tone to perfection. Souvenirs is pleasing, vivid and fun - sung with grace and joy. The choices are thoughtful and a great deal of care has gone into the performance of each piece, attempting to be faithful both to the composer’s possible intention and the language of the original text.
 
According to Netrebko’s own words this is a recital of pieces that are close to her heart and are often associated with a special memory. This is obvious from the start, as her singing clearly expresses enthusiasm, energy and mostly great warmth. We open with a show-stopper from Kálmán’s Die Csárdásfürstin, complete with mountain calls and gypsy-style tunes. She does a brilliant job. Her interpretation is full of life and passion. One can tell that she is relishing every note. This is followed by a very pleasant duet from Heuberger’s Der Opernball - one of the most enjoyable performances here. For this piece Netrebko teams up with excellent Polish tenor, Piotr Beczala. This duet was originally written for soprano and mezzo (in trousers role) but Netrebko has chosen to sing it with a male partner. The result is wonderful: their voices harmonise beautifully and their singing is full of expressive tenderness, love and heartfelt warmth.
 
Another highlight is Netrebko’s rendition of Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss from Lehár’s Giuditta, which is indeed hot and sounds flirty throughout. She is perhaps a bit patchy in Strauss’s Cäcilie; her singing Gimenez’s La tarantula... is not totally convincing and in Arditi’s Il bacio she is a little too slow. There are however a few especially beautiful moments in this recital. The first is the Barcarolle from Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann where Netrebko joins forces with Latvian mezzo Elďna Garanča, who has a truly gorgeous voice. Her beautifully clear tone combined with the Russian’s rich vocal colour is a particular pleasure: delicate and immensely romantic yet not sentimental. The second beautiful moment comes with Strauss’s Wiegenlied, expressively tender and sweet; and the third with Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu from his Requiem. Here Netrebko sublimely partners boy soprano Andrew Swait who has a pure but delightfully dark tone. The result is arguably one of the loveliest interpretations of this piece that I have ever heard. Finally, I must mention the two songs by Rimsky-Korsakov, which were specially orchestrated for this project. She captialsies on the opportunity with perfectly displayed high notes that are delicate yet powerful but never sound distorted or strident. Her expressive, easy and careful phrasing is present throughout but in particular during the wonderfully lyrical Solveig’s Song and Dvořák’s Songs my mother taught me - beautifully sung. To my mind, these are her best moments in the entire album.
 
Apart from showcasing Netrebko’s fabulous voice this recording is, I suppose, a self-indulgence. These pieces do not require such great effort (for her) and she obviously enjoys them. There is however another objective, which is to demonstrate the soprano’s talent for languages. Unfortunately this is not completely fulfilled. She does sing in a colourful variety of languages, including Latin, Yiddish and Andalusian dialect, however her diction is not always clear. Her vowels are on occasions sluggish, particularly in German and Italian. There is little distinction between her French and Norwegian and whether she is using Spanish or the Andalusian dialect is unclear unless one is specifically told. On some occasions, it was difficult to tell in which language she was singing without following the lyrics. I cannot really comment on Czech or Russian but, naturally enough she appears more relaxed and within her comfort zone.
 
The Prague Philharmonic Choir and the Prague Philharmonia under the insightful, sympathetic baton of Emmanuel Villaume give an excellent account of themselves throughout, clearly marking the individuality of each piece. They are full of feeling, lively or quietly delicate, as the situation demands, but never sentimental or overwhelming the singer. They perfectly cushion Netreko’s voice as well as that of her guests, contributing effectively to an overall pleasing effect, which is the dominant impression left by this recital.
 
Souvenirs turned out to be a colourful box of unexpected delights, effectively showcasing Netrebko’s beautiful voice. It lacks to my mind the elegance, quality and insight of her Russian Album, which is still her best to date. However, putting aside the excessively “girlie” packaging, this recital is a light but enjoyable and feel-good work from a singer with true star power. Opera-lovers may feel that there is some lack of depth or that this repertoire is not a real challenge for the soprano’s talent. Anna Netrebko’s fans on the other hand will almost surely run to add it to their collection.
 
Margarida Mota-Bull
 

 


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