Anna Netrebko - Russian Album
Anna Netrebko frames her recital with the two great heroines of Russian 19th- and 20th-century opera: Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Natasha in Prokofiev’s War and Peace. Of course, the two characters have a good deal in common, both suffering unhappy, unfulfilled loves. Netrebko has yet to portray Tatyana on stage, but Natasha has been one of her most successful parts in Russia and elsewhere (it was the role of her Met debut).
The scene chosen from the Prokofiev is Act 1 part 4, in which Natasha is torn between her love for Andrei and the irresistible attraction of the rakish Anatol. Several of Prokofiev’s main themes are recalled, as Natasha is driven towards the wrong man. In this, and in the main section of Tatyana’s Letter scene, Netrebko gives the characters’ contrasted moods of anxiety, Natasha full of foreboding, Tatyana bursting with youthful hope. Her soft singing is exquisite and there is none of the edginess in the voice that can sometimes mar Slavonic sopranos.
Among the other slightly less familiar arias, Netrebko is grandly eloquent in the scene from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Tsar Saltan, and then immediately uses a more youthful voice for the opening of The Snow Maiden. The Glinka aria takes the story right back to the beginnings of Russian nationalist opera. The songs by Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky are heard in rather overblown orchestral arrangements, but Netrebko sings them all with ravishing tone.
The Mariinsky Orchestra and Gergiev are, of course, in their element, and the recording, especially the balance between voice and orchestra, is fine throughout. This is the best disc Netrebko has made so far and should make many new friends for Russian opera.