Anna Netrebko: "Verismo"
Coro e Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Pappano. Texts and translations. Deutsche Grammophon B0025289-02
ANNA NETREBKO here leaves her bel canto ingénues in the dust and stakes a credible claim to the verismo heroines, trading coquettishness for mettle and romance for passion. Her lush soprano has ripened into a dark, ample conveyance that throbs with drama, whether it’s reflecting present action or anticipating lurking danger. But such formidable vocalism is a lot for one sitting, and after listening to so many blockbuster arias in a row on this new disc, you become attuned to the overripeness around the edges. Also, because many of the arias cover similar emotional ground, there is a lack of variety in her range of expression.
A generous helping of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut allows for more differentiation, beginning with a glowing, heart-on-sleeve “In quelle trine morbide.” Netrebko is then joined by her husband, tenor Yusif Evyazov, for the complete Act IV. Even on her deathbed, Netrebko’s Manon emerges as the dominant personality, thanks to the robustness of her sound and the conviction she brings to every utterance. She begins “Sei tu che piangi” almost as an accusation, holding her vulnerability in check until she reaches the phrase “Tu puoi salvarmi.” Her heart-ripping “Sola, perduta, abbandonata” is infused with desperation, and in Manon’s last moments she suggests the character’s dwindling life force with no reduction in vocal beauty.
Manon is the only role represented here that Netrebko has performed onstage to date. Her “Vissi d’arte” is probably the most exquisitely rendered aria on this recording. If “Io son l’umile ancella,” from Adriana Lecouvreur, is a bit heavy on the bottom, it closes on a high A-flat that starts like gangbusters before dwindling to a gentle shadow of itself. The weightiness of Netrebko’s lower range is more effective in a terrific “La mamma morta,” which moves from bleak acceptance to blazing affirmation. “Un bel dì” finds its girlishness in the middle after starting out a bit too knowing; when she sings “Chi sarà? Chi sarà,” Netrebko reveals a touching innocence missing from the beginning. Her final electrifying cry of “l’aspetto” has all the blind force of deluded love.
More fascinating than the pretty but slightly mature “Signore, ascolta” is “In questa reggia,” in which Netrebko finds a reverent hush for Turandot’s recollection of the past. She lands with a formidable declaration of independence on the heels of a “grido” that is, refreshingly, more sung than shouted. Evyazov cuts through with solid steeliness as Calàf. “Quel fiamma … stridono lassù,” from Pagliacci, provides welcome buoyancy with brighter and more sensual color. The dark overtones to her sound are a perfect fit for Catalani’s “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana,” although she occasionally hovers on the top half of the pitches. Conductor Antonio Pappano matches Netrebko’s extreme emotion and showcases the orchestra to excellent advantage in the prelude to the despairing “L’altra notte in fondo al mare,” from Boito’s Mefistofele. —Joanne Sydney Lessner