Anna Netrebko to Open Third Met Season in a Row

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 05:00 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Already one of the most famous singers in the world, Anna Netrebko is about to claim a new title at the Metropolitan Opera: The prima donna is becoming a "three-ma" donna.

When the Russian diva launches the Met season on Sept. 23 in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, it will mark her third consecutive opening night - a milestone no soprano has ever reached before in leading roles.

The streak began in 2011 in Donizetti's tragic Anna Bolena and continued last year with a comedy by the same composer, L'Elisir d'Amore. She scored in both operas, though the first stretched her vocal abilities to their limits and the second seemed like something she had outgrown.

In Onegin, she will be returning to her Russian roots, singing in her native language at the Met for the first time since her 2002 debut in Prokofiev's War and Peace. Tatiana, the heroine of the Tchaikovsky opera adapted from Pushkin, is a fascinating creation who grows from an impressionable young woman rejected by the man she adores to a sophisticated married noblewoman who rebuffs the same man's belated passion.

The role seems an ideal fit for Netrebko's large, luscious voice, glamorous looks and luminous stage presence (as critics agreed when she premiered the role in Vienna earlier this year).

Yet she said Tatiana has proved an acting challenge because she finds the heroine behaving very differently from the way a woman would in today's world.

"I'm a girl from the 21st century, and I would do everything opposite," Netrebko said in an interview during a break from rehearsals last week.

During the interview, Netrebko twice made a point of apologizing for having dropped the "F-bomb" in an Opera News interview. She was rather bluntly expressing her view that a modern-day Tatiana would surely have an affair with Onegin once he finally declares his love.

"I received angry letters about it," she said, blushing. "What I meant was that in our time it would be very hard to lose your love. Who would say no? If you have such strong feelings, there is a way to be together."

To get in touch with Tatiana's sensibility, Netrebko said she tries "to remember nobility, sincerity, honor, sacrifice - all those words which we are not using anymore much."

Beyond the usual excitement of opening night, there's a political controversy hanging over the occasion. Some activists had called for the company to dedicate the performance to a protest against laws in Russia restricting the rights of homosexuals. (Both Netrebko and conductor Valery Gergiev were public supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin's re-election last year.)

The Met issued a statement deploring "the suppression of equal rights here or abroad," but saying it would be inappropriate to use the performance for a political statement. Netrebko responded to the controversy on her Facebook page without mentioning Russia but declaring: "I have never and will never discriminate against anyone."

"Some people said I have to say more," Netrebko said, "but that is the maximum I can say right now." Then, leaning over in a conspiratorial whisper, she added: "In my next life, when I will be a politician, we talk!"

No matter how the opening goes, Netrebko's streak will come to an end at three, leaving her far short of tenor Enrico Caruso's 14 consecutive opening nights, from 1907 to 1920, or Placido Domingo's seven from 1989-1995.

The Met is starting its 2014-15 season with Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, and though Netrebko at one point discussed the role of the Countess, she decided not to do it. "I don't like the character," she said, "plus I don't see myself as a Mozart singer."

What she does see herself as these days is a Verdi singer. She recently released (to mixed reviews but healthy sales) a CD of his arias on the Deutsche Grammophon label. She sang concert performances of Giovanna d'Arco at Salzburg this summer, and she's debuting two iconic Verdi roles this season: Leonora in Il Trovatore in Berlin this November and Lady Macbeth in Munich next summer.

Other new roles she's planning include Puccini's Manon Lescaut with Riccardo Muti in Rome next February and Elsa in Wagner's Lohengrin in a few years. One she would someday like to tackle is another Tchaikovsky heroine, Lisa in Queen of Spades.

"I love this opera!" she said. "Tchaikovsky does something to all of us Russians, it just kills us.

"I don't really have the voice for it now, but maybe in 10 years." added Netrebko, who will turn 42 this week.

Netrebko isn't the only artist generating excitement for the Met's opening week. The night after Onegin, James Levine, the company's music director, is set to return to the house after being sidelined by illness and injury for more than two years. He'll conduct one of his favorites, Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Also on the first-week schedule is the return of the wildly imaginative production of Shostakovich's The Nose, by South African artist William Kentridge. All three of these operas will be among the 10 "live in HD" broadcasts shown in movie theaters around the world later in the season.

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Comments [5]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ


Today's [Saturday, January 25th, 2014] L'Elisir d'Amore broadcast had many of the qualities of its earlier broadcast with Netrebko but the rest of today's cast was lackluster. Why should the MET OPERA not have the outreach to get the appropriate singers for SO MANY of its operas. At today's perfprmance was a zesty, brimful of spontaneity, performance. Splendid casting of ANNA NETREBKO as Adina with SALVATORE CORDELLA as Nemorino, a role that requires a voice of considerable flexibility and beauty, if not richness, of timbre qualities Messr. CORDELLA lacks. The joie de vivre inherent in everything the charismatic Netrebko performs is similar to that of one of my voice teachers the legendary Met Opera coloratura FRIEDA HEMPEL who sang the role of Adina opposite the Nemorino of ENRICO CARUSO at the MET and elsewhere. Maestro MAURIZIO BENINI rendered a spirited, vivacious, bubbling tour de force performance., stylistically on the mark !!! I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer, "Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare" and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where singing technique and where ALL the Shakespeare and Wagner roles are coached. My websites where one may download, free, my singing of 37 out of the 100 selections that I have sung in four three-hour-long solo concerts at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall by going to Recorded Selections; www.WagnerOpera.com, www.ShakespeareOpera.com and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com. Roles that are represented in my singing to be heard on my websites are:Otello, Tristan, Siegfried, Goetterdaemmerung Siegfried, Parsifal, Siegmund, Walther von Stolzing, Florestan, Federico, Orfeo and Eleazar. On Saturday March 22nd at 6 PM at the Hotel Pennsylvania, 32nd Street and 7th Avenue, New York City, I will sing for the NEW LIFE EXPO my concert FOUR GREAT SONG CYCLES: the complete Wesendonck Lieder [Wagner], the complete Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen [Mahler], the tenor solos from Das Lied von der Erde {Mahler] and Waldemar's music from Gurre-Lieder [Schoenberg. The accompanying collaborator pianist will be ROLF BARNES

Jan. 25 2014 06:14 PM
Suzanne from New York

Not to take anything away from Ms. Netrebko's achievement, but I was recently reminded that the late American mezzo Tatiana Troyanos also had three consecutive Met openings to her credit--as Adalgisa in "Norma" in 1981 (Italian); As Octavian in "Der Rosenkavalier" in 1982 (German); and as Didon in "Les Troyens" in 1983 (French).

Oct. 05 2013 02:32 PM
tom from LIC NY

Why Opening Night 3 years in a row for Netrebko? She's very good, she's not stellar. The Met for years used to be 'The House of Fleming,' now it's Everything Netrebko. Give others a chance, shine the spotlight on singers who are more exciting, more dazzling, if a little raw or rough around the edges, but totally mind boggling to listen to, all the better. Find them.
It's about listening to music being conducted wonderfully and played by a magnificent orchestra supporting beautiful voices.

Sep. 18 2013 08:40 PM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

Anna has the right to support whom she damn pleases. Why is there no petition signed honoring blue-eyed Sicilians. Would love to hear and see her as Lady Macbeth. Dark character and hope her voice has deepened enough for that role.

Sep. 17 2013 11:43 AM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

Netrebko is at a crossroads in her career.The combination of advancing age and increasing weight have produced a larger,darker sound.She is no longer vocally appropriate for the "ina"s and "etta"s from her earlier years.If she is willing to put in the work,she has the potential to develop into a singer of the Radvanovsky career arc,with Verdi repertoire in the forefront.

Sep. 17 2013 01:20 AM

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