Giuseppe Verdi


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such as your host.

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Giacomo Puccini

SATURDEE OPRY LINKS 26: "Wild Anna" Netrebko Special!

The varied moods of Anna Netrebko.

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"I Vespri Siciliani," by Verdi. (Great one.) 

Saturdee Opry Links opens with "Wild Anna" Netrebko (more later), with a brisk, jaunty aria from Verdi's "I Vespri Siciliani." Note: the opera was written in French, later translated (badly) into Italian, and for bizarre reasons the setting was changed from Sicily to Portugal. This is a tour-de-force by Netrebko (in my opinion), whose voice has both might and lustrous beauty. 
Setting: the gardens of the palace of Montfort, Palermo, 1282
Synopsis: Before being married to Henri, Hélène sings of her great joy in a dance-like fashion that is more akin to a Spanish bolero than a siciliana. At the same time, her joy has been tempered because she has discovered that their wedding bells will be the signal for the Sicilian uprising and massacre of the French.
About the opera: 

"The future is female?" One hopes not, if Lady MacBeth is any indicator. Here, Netrebko sings the praises of cunning and deceit from Verdi's "MacBeth." A short but potent aria. 
Setting: A hall in Macbeth's castle, Scotland
Synopsis: Lady Macbeth has just read a letter aloud from Macbeth saying that he has been appointed Thane of Cawdor and, right before he was appointed Thane, a group of witches prophesied that he would be both Thane and King soon. Lady Macbeth is excited about this prospect and sings of this excitement that her husband will soon be King of Scotland.

Netrebko is the most winning soprano alive. She is irrepressible, outspoken, giddy, funny, impulsive, explosive, and brilliant. Here is the lede of an Opera News profile of her from 2013:
"I'm sorry — at the end, I would fuck the guy! So I have nothing in common with Tatiana — only language!” With that summation of Eugene Onegin, in which she’ll open the Metropolitan Opera’s 129th season on September 23, Anna Netrebko explodes into the Met press office, wearing a bulky-knit neon acid-green sweater over a metallic black miniskirt. I have met plenty of dazzling people in my time, but Netrebko is more charismatic than any of them; at forty-one, she seems lit from within and animated by a charming, benign mania. If this is a put-on, it is masterful.
And here is a new piece about Anna, now 47, from the NYT---complete with characteristically zany Instagram photos. 

Ignore the silly production design. (Oh, gee, a big clock. I get it! Time is running out!) There are singers who sing wonderfully, act wonderfully, and sing and act wonderfully. And then there are singers who simply become the character---or, as is the case here, the character becomes the singer. There are those who would accuse Netrebko of scenery-chewing, and with justification. But hell, this is opera. Where is there tastier scenery to chew? In other words, this is inimitably Netrebko. From Verdi's "La Traviata," this is the aching, lilting, piquant "Addio del Passato" ("Farewell to the past; happy dreams of days gone by.") 
Setting: Violetta's bedroom
Synopsis: Violetta is now poor and about to die. She receives a letter from Alfredo's father saying that Alfredo has discovered why she lied about her love for him and is coming to her. She knows that it is too late, though, and sings a farewell to her happiness with Alfredo.

Netrebko has bulked up a big in middle age (she seems to like to cook hamburgers at home, as her Instagram post suggests, and she is prone to dining at Denny's---yech!), and you could say that her voice has gained weight, as well---in a good way. Anthony Tommasini wrote this of her recent debut at the Met as "Aida:" "Ms. Netrebko, who started off as a lyric soprano, has been more of a surprise as she’s moved into challenging bel canto repertory and weightier and more dramatic roles. This Aida proved yet again that she knows what she is doing." More hefty roles are sure to follow. Here she is in that Met "Aida," singing "O Patria Mia:" ("Oh, my country---never more will I see you.") This is a dazzler. Note the touch of awe in the audience response; people seem too amazed to go into the usual bravo-shouting competition. 
Setting: The banks of the Nile
Synopsis: It is the eve of Amneris' wedding to Radamès and Aida has come to the banks of the nile near the temple to meet Radamès. She mourns her homeland which she will never see again.

"Her voice also retains aspects of the slightly cool, focused tone characteristic of the Russian style she was raised in. This distinguishes her Verdi and Puccini singing from the typical throbbing Italianate approach. On Wednesday, in “O patria mia,” Aida’s wrenching Act III aria, Ms. Netrebko sang the music’s plaintive, long-spun phrases with a subdued yet penetrating beauty that recalled the great Leontyne Price, who once owned this role." 

Here is a backstage interview at the Met with Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili during "Aida." Terrible, really, that they must be interviewed between acts, as this puts extra strain, I would think, on maintaining character and mood. Quite interesting comments from Netrebko. Note her no-nonsense remarks at 00:56 and 4:55. 

Netrebko will soon debut in the less-performed "Adriana Lecouvreur," by Cilea, at the Met. Long a kind of vehicle for sopranos who are past their prime, owing to arias that are gorgeous but lacking in challenging high notes, it will be interesting to hear a soprano at the peak of her abilities assay the role. Here is a preview. Netrebko sings the tender, haunting "Io Son L'UUmile Ancella." ("I'm but the humble servant of the creator. . .") 
Setting: backstage at the Comédie-Française, Paris, 1730
Synopsis: The Prince de Boullion and the Abbe de Chazeuil meet the company at the Comédie-Française before the show. Although the Prince is the patron of Adriana's main competition as an actress, Duclos, he compliments Adriana. She replies to the compliments by saying that she is only the vessel through which the muses work.

Netrebko says she has zero in common with her character, Tatiana, in Tchaikovsky's brooding "Eugene Onegin." This is a good example of her strengths as an actress coming into play. As she said of the final scene in "Onegin," "I'm sorry — at the end, I would fuck the guy! So I have nothing in common with Tatiana — only language!” Yes, sigh, she really said this. Here is that final scene, with English subtitles. 
Scene 2: A room in Prince Gremin's house
Tatyana has received Onegin's letter, which has stirred up the passion she felt for him as a young girl and disturbed her. Onegin enters. Tatyana recalls her earlier feelings and asks why Onegin is pursuing her now. Is it because of her social position? Onegin denies any cynical motivation: his passion is real and overwhelming. Tatyana, moved to tears, reflects how near they once were to happiness but nevertheless asks him to leave. He asks her to have pity. Tatyana admits she still loves Onegin, but asserts that their union can never be realized, as she is now married, and determined to remain faithful to her husband despite her true feelings. Onegin implores her to relent, but she bids him farewell forever, leaving him alone and in despair.

I say that Netrebko is a phenomenon with parallels to Callas, Pryce, Edith Piaf(!), Mario Lanza. Huh? What's he talkin' about? Just this: she is able to essentially throw herself into her singing, with abandon. Of course, for all I know, I could be totally off-base. Perhaps she is constantly fretting about technique, etc., but it sure does not come across. (And persnickety critics take issue with her pitch, pronunciation, etc.) Here is a germane quote:
"I have so many things coming up! I have to study, and I don't like to. I'm so scared. Giovanna d'Arco, Trovatore, Faust, Manon Lescaut with Maestro Muti. I like to sing Puccini. It's very easy for me, but you have to be very careful. Manon Lescaut is huge for tenor, but not big singing for soprano, if you have great conductor who will not drown you out. It's a pleasure to sing Puccini, but then afterwards, I must have some time. I can't jump from one to another."
And here she is on stage in Rome with "In quelle trine morbide," from Puccini's "Manon Lescaut." The video quality is poor, but the vocalizing is wunderbar. 
Or if you prefer a studio version: 
Setting: Geronte’s house, Paris, France, 18th century
Synopsis: Remembering Des Grieux’s love, Manon is not sure she made the right decision to live with Geronte. Even with the luxury she has, there is something that chills her soul.

Such a range of vocal colors. . .indeed able to combine lyric soprano nuance with wonderful chest voice deep notes and spinto power. And to sing operatically is just so, so complex. Here is a good quote:
"I always had a middle voice, but I had to work on it, to put it in the right position — especially for Lady Macbeth, which must have the chest voice. I do have, absolutely natural, without any force, chest voice. From the Nature. I didn't do anything to get it. I have been working with a great guy in Vienna, Daniel Sarge, who has ears, especially for soprano. He was the one who said I should sing the Macbeth. He told me he would prove it to me. I was, of course, afraid. But it doesn't have such a big orchestra, like Abigaille. It's just there is so much middle. Most importantly, the character has to be there. When I was recording the sleepwalking scene, this was not coming. Everything sung perfect from note to note. I was not forcing. But it was not there. It took a couple of months to find out what was wrong."
And here is Dvorak's pseudo-Puccini aria, "Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém' ('Song to the Moon'), from "Rusalka." 
Role: Rusalka, daughter of the Spirit of the Lake
Setting: A clearing on the shore of the lake, medieval times
Synopsis: Rusalka has fallen in love with a Prince. Unfortunately, Rusalka is a water sprite and cannot come out of the water or communicate with him. She asks the moon to tell her love that she is thinking of him.

In 2015, Netrebko married Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazov. No wonder she goes out of her way to not overshadow him here, in this Ernesto De Curtis standard, "Non Ti Scordar Di Me" ("Do not forget me!") on stage at the Palace Square in St. Petersburg. 
"The swallows left
From my cold and sunless country,
Searching for Springs full of violets
And lovely and happy nests.
My little swallow left
Without leaving me a kiss
She left without a goodbye
. . ."

Anna Netrebko:
"I want to go to cinema, I want to read books, I want to experience something new, but I never have time for that! You know what I want? I want somebody in my life — a friend, or a mentor — to really teach me something totally new. Like, let me experience with my soul, my brain, my everything, but to open for me something very new. Make me interested. I think that's what I really need! I think the life is so short. I want to live another three hundred years!"
Earlier this year on stage at the Bolshoi, the "new" Netrebko---with her heftier, darker voice, sang "Vissi d'arte" from Puccini's "Tosca." "I lived for art. . ."
Setting: Scarpia's study
Synopsis: In the midst of being blackmailed into sex with Scarpia in exchange for sparing Tosca's lover, Tosca sings of the two great driving forces in her life: love and music. 

Saturdee Opry Links Netrebko Special Encore! 
Wild Anna Netrebko at her best, or at least most fun. She and the audience have a grand time of it with this Franz Lehar tune, "Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss" ("My lips' fiery kiss.") I wouldn't mind her tossing a flower my way. . .


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