This compilation CD, from the Russian diva Anna Netrebko, will delight opera aficionados and newcomers alike, and will consequently be a big seller. Hardcore fans cannot fail to be impressed by the beauty and unforced power of Netrebko's voice . . .
Record Review /
Classic FM (London) / 01. October 2007
. . . Anna Netrebko [hat] eine fest fokussierte Stimme mit guter Tragkraft und sicherer Koloratur . . . Die ungewöhnliche Begabung ist unbestreitbar und teilt sich über die CD mit.
Record Review /
Stereoplay (Stuttgart) / 01. September 2003
Anna Netrebko a fait d'incontestables progrès: l'émission s'est formidablement équilibrée et raffermie, et, surtout, l'intonation est aujourd'hui au-dessus de tout soupçon.
Anna Netrebko has made undeniable progress: her vocal production is formidably even and firm, and, best of all, her intonation is now absolutely immaculate.
Record Review /
Diapason (Paris) / 01. February 2004
... el disco, felizmente dirigido por Gianandrea Noseda al frente de una orquesta como la de los filarmónicos vieneses dúctil, detallista y con un cálido sonido bien amalgamado por todos sus intérpretes.
Record Review /
CD Compact (Barcelona) / 01. November 2003
A Little Danger - Anna Netrebko
Many singers are reluctant to admit in interviews that a role could be less than wonderful – every work of every composer, they would have you believe, must be equally rewarding and worthwhile. So it is refreshing to encounter Anna Netrebko, the young Russian soprano, and her candid, unvarnished opinions on what distinguishes the parts she chooses from the ones she rejects. Although Netrebko’s brilliant, persuasive singing has earned her widespread critical acclaim and a growing army of admirers, it isn’t the music alone that she considers before taking on a role: the character must have bite and color, breadth and depth. “It has to be something with meat. That’s what I like. For example, Zerlina I hate. My worst role. It is hard for me to find something there. I cannot be the cute little peasant. It does not work for me. I like something with a little danger.”
It isn’t surprising that Netrebko has such a strong point of view, for her career has been marked by daring from the very beginning. Born in Krasnodar, in southern Russia, she was a 20-year-old student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory when the Kirov Opera’s Valery Gergiev discovered her – scrubbing floors in the Mariinsky Theater. That job allowed her to attend and absorb everything she could from the company’s rehearsals and performances. After a couple of years, she auditioned for Gergiev, singing the Queen of Night’s daredevil arias from Die Zauberflöte. To her astonishment, he accepted her on the spot.
Their first collaboration was Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila, first at the Kirov and then, crucially, at San Francisco Opera, where Netrebko enjoyed a success that surprised everyone – especially herself – since she was then only 23. Under the guidance of San Francisco Opera’s general director, Lotfi Mansouri, she stayed on as a member of its famous training academy, the Merola Program, in which she essayed a number of leading leggero roles.
Her successful Metropolitan Opera début came in 2002 as Natasha in Prokofiev’s War and Peace. Netrebko, however, does not consider herself a particularly persuasive champion of Russian opera. Her principal interest lies in the great French and Italian roles suited to her voice, and the selection of arias on this début solo recording – her first under a long-term exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon – provides a generous sampling of the types of parts she likes best. Included are two prime bel canto arias, Amina’s “Care compagne ... Come per me sereno” from Bellini’s La sonnambula and “Ancor non giunse! ... Regnava nel silenzio” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. The exultation of Amina’s aria and the Gothic chill of Lucia’s provide a striking study in contrast.
By the mid-20th century, bel canto roles had become the province of piping, fresh-voiced sopranos such as Lily Pons and Patrice Munsel. But a change began in the 1950s and ’60s with potent singing actresses like Maria Callas, Beverly Sills, and Renata Scotto also bringing out the score’s raw dramatic elements. Pretty sounds or pointed expression? No doubt Bellini and Donizetti wanted both, and Netrebko’s objective is to arrive at the perfect combination of Lucia light and dark. To that end she has spent much of the past year coaching the repertory extensively with Scotto, who she says “helps me a lot to do the different phrases, the colors. I am very thankful to her.”
Also included in this collection are samples of two Mozart roles: Ilia’s “Padre, germani, addio!” from Idomeneo, and Donna Anna’s “Non mi dir” from Don Giovanni. Netrebko has performed both on stage. The latter was an enormous personal success for her at the 2002 Salzburg Festival, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. “When I was first asked to sing this, I was surprised,” she says. “Usually people expect big voices in the role – even Jane Eaglen sang it. I thought, ‘Oh, no. I cannot.’ But when I went to the audition and Harnoncourt listened to me sing a few bars, he said, ‘OK, let’s work.’ It was not that difficult for me, after all. Just right for my voice.”
In the beginning, Netrebko heard the warning often levelled at lyric sopranos: “Only Mozart. Nothing else. But if I sing only this light stuff, I will never develop. I don’t like it when conductors ask me to sing lighter. I hate that. If I am trying to sing lighter than I have to, I am singing badly, and nothing can help me.” That conviction guided her in choosing the other arias for this recording.
Despite its abundance of luxurious melody, Massenet’s Manon has long been one of the most challenging roles in the lyric soprano repertory. It is difficult to make Manon as coquettish and cunning as she needs to be without sacrificing audience sympathy. Here, in the Cours-la-Reine scene from Act III, with its jaunty Gavotte, Netrebko seems ideally suited to the role’s demands for a fresh, youthful timbre, precise command of fioriture, and playful, sensuous rhythms.
A complex combination of guile and innocence is also part of what makes Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust a rewarding role. It is represented on this recording by the famous aria “Les grands seigneurs ont seuls des airs ... Ah! je ris de me voir (‘Jewel Song’),” which requires a soprano with a good trill and an elastic rhythmic sense for its elaborate runs. The role is a particular favorite of Netrebko, who sees Marguerite not as a limp victim but as someone too quick to yield to her own passion and greed.
Netrebko has yet to undertake Dvořák’s Rusalka onstage, but this role – the water nymph yearning to be mortal – is another one that strongly appeals to her. When effectively sung, the phrases of intense longing in Rusalka’s radiant “Song to the Moon,” the opera’s most famous number, seem almost literally to radiate into the night air. For Netrebko, it is a study in smoldering passion.
Nor has she yet performed any of the Berlioz operas, but the role of Teresa in Benvenuto Cellini, torn between family and suitor in the first-act aria included here, is one that especially intrigues her.
If one had to name the most consistently oversung, overplayed role in the soprano repertory, it might well be Musetta in La bohème, but for Netrebko the role seems almost naturally well suited: a woman of unstinting drive and determination to get her own way. Here she offers Musetta’s famous waltz, “Quando men vo.”
Anna Netrebko doesn’t hesitate to admit her preference for opera to the recital stage. “I like lights and costumes. I like to play with my partners,” she says, adding with a malicious laugh, “Sometimes too much!” Already she is thinking ahead to her next recording, a collection of opera scenes also featuring other performers. “Who would listen to a second CD of me only?” she laughs. “It would be so boring!” But the gleam in her eye assures you that she really doesn’t think so.
Brian Kellow is the features editor of Opera News and the author of
Can’t Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell (1999).
Anna Netrebko - A Biographical Timetable
Born in Krasnodar, in the south of Russia; receives her vocal training at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where she appears as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro and Violetta in La traviata
First prize-winner of the Glinka Vocal Competition in Moscow, where she takes part in a concert dedicated to the opening of the Irina Arkhipova Foundation at the Bolshoi Theater; joins the Kirov company at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Peters-burg, to which she still belongs
Makes her debut at the Mariinsky Theater as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, a role she repeats in Kirov/Mariinsky tours to Finland, Germany, and Israel; some of her other important roles with the company include Lucia in Lucia di Lammer-moor, Amina in La sonnambula, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Micaëla in Carmen, and Louisa in Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery
Graduates from St. Petersburg Conservatory; sensational US début as Lyudmila in Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila at the San Francisco Opera, where she becomes a frequent guest
Prize-winner at the International Rimsky-Korsakov Vocal Competition, St. Petersburg; makes BBC début (also telecast) with Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Wins the Baltika prize for young opera singers (St. Petersburg)
Sings Susanna at the San Francisco Opera House and gives her first recital (including songs by Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninov)
Washington Opera début as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto; concert performances of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini under Gergiev in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and London
Sings in works by Bach (B minor Mass) and Handel Judas Maccabaeus) at the Maggio Musicale in Florence; new successes in San Francisco as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Musetta in La bohème; acclaimed as Natasha in Prokofiev’s War and Peace under Gergiev at the Mariinsky Theater and at Covent Garden; Donizetti’s Lucia and Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Mariinsky Theater
Ilia (Idomeneo), Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Nannetta (Falstaff), Marfa (The Tsar’s Bride), and Zerlina (Don Giovanni); further triumphs in the role of Natasha in War and Peace at La Scala, Milan, and Madrid’s Teatro Real
Sings Natasha in War and Peace in her Metropolitan début and her first Donna Anna in her début with the Salzburg Festival in the season-opening new production of Don Giovanni, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt; Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi in her Philadelphia début; Lucia for Kirov Opera at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater; at the Verbier Festival she sings in a performance of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony under James Levine
Appears as Servilia in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito under Sir Colin Davis at Covent Garden; Mozart’s Ilia in Washington and Zerlina at the Metropolitan; makes her Vienna State Opera début in La traviata; at the Mariinsky she sings Natasha and Violetta, and participates in a gala concert in May for the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg
Summer engagements include her Bavarian State Opera début as Violetta, appearances at the Verbier Festival, and a return to the Salzburg Festival as Donna Anna
Gianandrea Noseda was born in 1964 in Milan, where he began his musical studies in piano, composition, and conducting. He later studied conducting in Vienna and in Italy with Donato Renzetti, Myung-Whun Chung, and Valery Gergiev. In 1994 he won the international com-petitions in Douai (chaired by Georges Prêtre) and Cadaqués (chaired by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky).
Since making his professional conducting début in 1994 with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Noseda has appeared with orchestras such as the BBC Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Swedish Radio Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber, Tokyo Symphony, and Toronto Symphony, as well as the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, and the Orchestre National de France, in addition to the New York Philharmonic and the Cincinnati Symphony in US. In Italy, he appears regularly with the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
In 1997, at the invitation of Valery Gergiev, Noseda became the first foreign principal
guest conductor at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, where he also helped set up
the Mariinsky Young Philharmonic Orchestra and serves as its principal conductor. He has conducted the Kirov Opera – both on tour and in St. Petersburg – in new productions of Rigoletto, Tosca, Le nozze di Figaro, La traviata, La sonnambula, Don Carlo, Don Giovanni, Lucia di Lammermoor, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, La bohème, Così fan tutte, and Il trittico by Puccini. With the Kirov Ballet, he has conducted new productions of Sleeping Beauty and Balanchine’s Jewels.
In 1998 Noseda made his début at the San Francisco Opera House with Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery. He conducted Prokofiev’s War and Peace at his Covent Garden and Teatro alla Scala débuts in 2000, and at his Metropolitan début in 2002. In 2001 he made his Los Angeles Opera début conducting Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, with Plácido Domingo in the leading role.
Noseda was appointed principal conductor of the Orquesta de Cadaqués in 1998. Between 1999 and 2003 he has also been principal guest conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Since 2000 he is artistic director of the International Festival Settimane Musicali di Stresa e del Lago Maggiore, since September 2002 principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, and since 2003 the principal guest conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI.