Album review: Anna Netrebko

The popular Russian soprano previews a future path into Verdi's operas, with mixed results

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
Anna Detrebko; Verdi

Anna Detrebko; Verdi

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko opens the Met season in the most popular (and—note to President Putin—gayest) Russian composer’s most popular opera: Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. But the tempestuous, dark-voiced singer, whose instrument is getting ever larger, has announced plans to confront “big box” works by bicentenary birthday boy Giuseppe Verdi. Her latest solo album suggests both that it’s a great idea and that further fine-tuning would help in mastering this demanding repertory.

Recorded with Turin’s Teatro Regio orchestra under conductor Gianandrea Noseda, a far classier colleague than most diva recitals can boast, Deutsche Grammophon’s well-engineered release samples three titles Netrebko will be tackling: Giovanna d’Arco, Macbeth and Il trovatore. From that last opera, the Act IV marathon scene benefits from Netrebko’s recent concert experience: Her black-diamond sound is exciting. Her best work usually comes in selections that demand limited agility, like Don Carlo’s Act V prayer. Downward runs don’t always go smoothly, and some flatness and approximation intrude in faster numbers like the bolero from I vespri siciliani.

Netrebko’s Italian diction is comprehensible, but neither specific nor affecting; she’s done her homework, but it sounds that way. She lacks the gift of making repeated words take on new meanings. Promising, but… —David Shengold

Anna Netrebko appears in Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera Sept 23–Oct 19.