Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Soprano Anna Netrebko is a long term favorite singer of mine. It is not only because she has a fine voice, but also because of her humor, her stage presence and the diversity of her repertoire. On this CD she sings the amazing Last Four Songs by Richard Strauss. This recording features the following tracks: Strauss, R: Vier letzte Lieder, as performed by Anna Netrebko (soprano) Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40 Orchestral support is provided by the Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim conducting. • Anna Netrebko, sings Richard Strauss’ sumptuous Four Last Songs, accompanied by the Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim. An irresistible, all-star combination. • Netrebko is a phenomenon. The world’s best-selling active soprano and quite simply, the undisputed superstar – “la prima donna assoluta” (New York Post) – of opera today. Known equally for her poise, her sensuality and her voice’s unmistakable color, Strauss’s elegiac Four Last Songs are an exquisite vehicle for her expressive gifts: Netrebko’s first recording of these gorgeous, iconic songs. • And Daniel Barenboim: conductor, pianist, humanitarian – perhaps the world’s most complete living musician. A venerated interpreter of Wagner, Mozart, Beethoven and Bruckner, in many ways the music of Richard Strauss represents the cross section of Barenboim’s musical background. In 1954, the then 11 year-old Barenboim was introduced to his idol, conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. It was Furtwängler who conducted the world premiere of Strauss’ Four Last Songs in 1949. • The Staatskapelle and Barenboim also perform ‘Ein Heldenleben’, one of the most vivid and popular tone poems by Strauss, who himself was Generalmusikdirektor of the Staatskapelle a century ago. Here is Anna Netrebko, singing the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss:
Netrebko/Eyvazov/Pina/Munich RO/Armiliato (Deutsche Grammophon, two CDs) With appearances in stage productions in Vienna, Moscow and New York, as well as the three concert performances at the Salzburg festival in August, from which this recording of Manon Lescaut has been created, the title role in Puccini’s first successful opera has dominated Anna Netrebko’s schedule in 2016. Deutsche Grammophon’s rush release of these discs is presumably intended to coincide with Netrebko’s most recent performances in the role at the Metropolitan Opera.The sound (recorded in the Grosses Festspielhaus) is sometimes recessed and with so much applause retained, not only at the beginnings and ends of acts but after individual arias, too, it all seems a bit rough and ready, and musically uneven. Marco Armiliato’s conducting is rhythmically flaccid and the playing of the Munich Radio Orchestra efficient but rarely characterful, yet Netrebko’s performance makes it worth hearing. She charts Manon’s journey from the ingenue of the first act, through the flighty vamp of the second to the tragic figure of the last very surely, and makes her final-act aria the emotional crux of the opera, always with a wonderfully rich, perfectly controlled sound, even when her Italian diction is hit-and-miss. Continue reading...
Lebrecht Album of the Year: Most critics pick their album of the year from the ones they reviewed over the past 52 weeks. This year, I’ve decided to choose from the ones I haven’t, the ones that for one reason or other failed to make the weekly cut…. Aha….. Much to discuss before we get there, but here’s the shortlist: Joyce DiDonato: In Peace and War (Warner) — a signature baroque program from an indispensable singer (no need to review the obvious). (iTunes ) Jerusalem Quartet: Bartók (Harmonia Mundi) — like it says on the tin: the harmonies of the world. (iTunes ) Daniil Trifonov: Transcendental (DG) — the title is no exaggeration. (iTunes ) Anna Netrebko: Verismo (DG) — believe it. (iTunes ) Carolin Widmann: Mendelssohn/Schumann violin concertos (ECM New Series). (iTunes ) And the winner is…. See here. Oh, and the worst of the year…. ?
Anna Netrebko is one of my favorite soprano. In this recording we hear her in the role of Manon. Puccini: Manon Lescaut Principal performers are Anna Netrebko (Manon Lescaut), Yusif Eyvazov (Des Grieux), Armando Piña (Lescaut), Carlos Chausson (Geronte), and Benjamin Bernheim (Edmondo) with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor, Marco Armiliato conducting. This recording was done Live from Salzburg! This outstanding concert performance of Manon Lescaut with Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov was the absolute highlight of the 2016’s Salzburg Festival. Ms. Netrebko fascinated the audience with the perfection of her exceptional voice, her unrivaled interpretation and her devotion to this very part – she is the Manon Lescaut of our time. Here is Ms. Netrebko in Manon Lescaut:
From an interview with Russian state media: A. N.: Say what you will, but all weight loss is complete nonsense! When Callas began to lose weight, she began to lose her voice…. RG: Do you follow diets? A.N.: No! Never! I love all of my extra 30 pounds, since Giuditta, who danced barefoot in Baden-Baden. I’ve been keeping my weight up for the past seven years, I love it. I will not give it to anyone. This is what keeps me going. This is my stamina, my strength, to have something to support my voice. Of course, I’m talking about dramatic parts, not an easy repertoire. RG: Has the fact that you have dramatically changed your role, having gone from a light, almost soubrette repertoire to the most dramatic roles, changed your character? A.N.: No. In general, I became calmer, childishness with antics and mimicry has gone. I am already 45 years old, how much can you? I’m tired of acting, of representing all what I am not anymore. I find it much more comforting and interesting to work with big, serious characters.
Text and Photo by Yige This is a report of the final dress of Manon Lescaut in MET on Nov. 10, a general impression of Anya's characterization of Puccini's Manon, and a preview of what to expect in the performance. Once again Anna Netrebko surprised me. It was not the singing which, of course, was the top tier one could find around. What so inspiring was that she, as a complete artist, bring up every resource, with first and most importantly, her singing, to shape a character. When Anya canceled the performance in Munich, reports from different sources seemed to suggest the major problem between them was that the director's idea was that Manon needed to choose between love and money, she chose money but regretted later, while Anya felt Manon just wanted both and refused to choose. Some asked whether this difference of idea is something that can make a visual difference on stage. I don't know. But at least it would make a huge difference in singing. That's to say, Anya's singing here was always sincere and passionate. Never was one moment of cold calculation. This is, how I feel at least, exactly what Puccini composed into music. I say "always" meaning this attitude was throughout the whole opera, toward anything beautiful, both love and money (or more precisely, spiritual beauty and material beauty). Thus, when she sang the beauty of countryside of past in act one, it was gray but sweet. Then, in the beginning of act two, one could hear some unusual childish joy when Manon was singing about the hairstyle, the clothes. Later during the dancing class and singing, the colorful singing clearly suggested this Manon was enjoying it. With all these "preparation" for the audience, when it came the time that Manon naively wanted to collect jewels to take with her in the end of act two, one just cannot blame her. These beautiful things mean something to her. Such is the key to bridge the first two acts and last two acts. On the surface, (most of) the first two acts are light-hearted while the last two are heavy-hearted. If not played well, it would be hard to gain audience's empathy of the heroine--we can certainly say it was Manon's own decision that led her to the fateful result. The common wisdom to answer why we should feel empathy for Manon is that she's a victim of a man dominated society. Not denying this element in the plot, I doubt how much of PUCCINI's Manon has this victim property. And Anya didn't play the victim. The real tragedy here is not seeing a victim's death, but the death of a person with so much passion on the beauty of life. With this in mind, we can understand the "problem" of this opera regarded by some--not having a coherent plot--is not a problem at all. It's not telling the story of Manon Lescaut but describing the character of her. The first two acts is to build up the character, and the later two is to destroy the character. (It's interesting to compare between the last lines of Massenet's "Manon"--"Et c’est là l’histoire de Manon Lescaut", and Puccini's "Manon Lescaut"--"Ma l'amor mio--non muor".) Anya understands this tragedy. Her largest success was, of course, in the last act which can break the heart of a stone, though I think it was because she put so much effort to build up the character earlier. To make a dying scene beautiful is not that hard, but how many times when you hear Manon keeping repeating she doesn't want to die in a dark voice horror, you cannot help but remember the earlier time when it was bright and joyful? With her singing, this opera was a complete whole. Clip from rehearsal by MET:
Great opera singers