VERDI La Traviata - Highl. /Netrebko, Villazón, Ri 4775953

. . . she is one of those rare creatures who possess the million-dollar trinity: she can sing, she can act, and she looks like a movie star . . . she's at the top of her profession. Her voice is uniquely pure, yet dark and full of colour, she has an awe-inspiring technical facility and a magnetic stage presence. Her most recent recording, of a live performance of Verdi's "La Traviata" shows off just what she can do -- dazzling coloratura, and beautiful, expressive tone. The comparisons to Maria Callas are inevitable.

For those of you who have multiple performances of "Traviata" it's a dream come true: a one-disc bargain featuring two great singers in their absolute prime. Anna Netrebko's Violetta is remarkable -- nuanced, sung with beautiful, even tone, by turns fragile and dignified, a melancholy, charismatic figure. Her phrasing and use of dynamics are thought-through and in service to the character . . . she's . . . a luscious, vulnerable Violetta. Tenor Rolando Villazón, too, is living up to his very early promise. He delivers an Alfredo filled with youthful feelings very close to the surface: adoration, longing, passion, rage, sadness, resignation. And vocally he is undoubtedly a star -- the voice, with its dark hue but bright, secure high notes, is one in a million . . . Carlo Rizzi's conducting is full of excitement and his youthful stars keep up with him well; the death scene, though morbidly slow, is similarly effective. The Vienna Philharmonic shines brightly . . . the sound is excellent . . . this CD of highlights is the perfect complement.

In this set of arias and duets from Verdi's "La Traviata", her voice is firepowered enough -- especially in killer sections, like the end of the famous "Sempre Libera" -- to blast its way into the part of your brain that thought it didn't like opera.

In this set of arias and duets from Verdi's "La Traviata", her voice is firepowered enough -- especially in killer sections, like the end of the famous "Sempre Libera" -- to blast its way into the part of your brain that thought it didn't like opera.

Mark that name -- and meet the new "it" girl of the opera world. Netrebko, whose glorious and well-schooled voice matches her physical beauty, has left audiences saucer-eyed while turning operadom on its ear . . . At every moment, Netrebko displays a voice of agility, accuracy, warmth, brilliance and power. It is touching and authoritative singing . . . Opera might never be the same.

During the past couple of years, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has become opera's "it girl", drawing in besotted fans the world over . . .