The latest livestream from the Metropolitan Opera is a recital by Anna Netrebko, the starry Russian soprano. She is accompanied by the pianist Pavel Nebolsin, and is joined for a couple of duets by a mezzo-soprano, Elena Maximova. Their venue? An unusual one: the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
The recital is available through February 19, and can be found here.
Most of these livestreams from the Met feature opera, naturally enough. Netrebko’s is basically a song recital—with some opera arias (and duets) thrown in. Netrebko has Russian items, of course—lots of them—and French items and German items. You also get a dose of Italian and a dose of Czech.
The recital has a theme: songs and arias about the day; songs and arias about the night. (No Cole Porter, though.) I maintain that no one gives a rip about themes, except administrators and critics, and maybe a few academics. What this program is, essentially, is a mixture of good songs, appropriate to the recitalist.
Which is great.
Netrebko begins with a Rachmaninoff song, “Lilacs.” I so often hear, and write about, the composer’s piano transcription of this song—I just did so earlier in the week—that I almost forget it is, in fact, a song.
So, now comes time for me to review Netrebko. I have been doing this for a long time—since first hearing her when she debuted at the Met, in 2002 (as Natasha in Prokofiev’s War and Peace). I’m not sure my fingers can type anymore about this lady.
She does some magnificent things in this recital. She does some unfortunate things. She wobbles, she thins, she sharps (as usual). She also flats, badly—in “Die Nacht,” the Richard Strauss song. The voice is not what it was. It is more “interesting” than beautiful.
But, oh, she is still Netrebko—that genius of singing, and of musical theater. As I always say, I have no idea what she would score on the SAT, and don’t care. Her vocal and musical IQ is off the charts.
Netrebko has a good partner in Pavel Nebolsin (long associated with the Bolshoi Theater). Like his singer, he is versatile, adaptable. Let me single out his introduction to “Morgen!” (Strauss). Pianists always mess this up; they try to make it profound. Nebolsin just plays it, which is right.
I would hear Anna Netrebko in anything, including “Mairzy Doats.” But she is at her best in Russian songs, I think. She must be the world’s foremost exponent of this repertoire right now. Dmitri Hvorostovsky is gone (not forgotten). Is Olga Borodina retired? I don’t see her around.
But Anna is ever visible, and a wonder of our times.