Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

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lennygoran
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Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

Post by lennygoran » Mon May 08, 2017 5:06 am

Well to each his or her own! Regards, Len :lol:



Anna Netrebko: ‘I don’t want to spend time on crap’

The Russian soprano, a winner at last night’s International Opera Awards, tells why she picks only the very best roles

So this is what it’s like to host Anna Netrebko in my living room. Well, almost. The Russian soprano is filling up my computer screen as we FaceTime, me in London, Netrebko in Calgary, Canada, her latest stop on a North American recital tour. To add to the emphatic quality of her speaking voice — and a rich, fruity giggle — there is also a repertoire of facial semaphore. Some of Netrebko’s expressions are used when the singer clearly doesn’t fancy saying a lot on the subject, but wants to let you know exactly what she thinks. It might be a mischievous pout. Once it is more of a silent snarl.

Last night Netrebko won best female singer in the International Opera Awards (informally known as the “Toscars”) held at the London Coliseum. She is delighted, albeit in a way that suggests her Toscar will join a shelf of gongs in the downstairs loo. “Of course it’s wonderful — but if I don’t get an award, I’m not getting upset. It’s OK too.”

Nonetheless, the award must be confirmation that there is still no more dominant diva on the block, no more talked-about soprano than Netrebko. The 45-year-old is one of the few singers — possibly the last — who can sell out the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She commands ticket prices at the Salzburg Festival of €450 (to get into her sold-out Aida this summer you would have to pay a lot more to touts) and when she reprised the role of Violetta in La Scala in Milan in March she won astounding ovations from a normally partisan crowd, who called her “splendida” and “stupenda”.

Not all scrutiny, however, has been positive. At the Royal Opera House press conference last month, after Antonio Pappano had presented a season of premieres and starry casts, including Netrebko’s performance in an otherwise routine revival of Verdi’s Macbeth next March, the first question was: “Yes, but will she show up this time?”

Cue Netrebko’s first pout. There is history here. She was supposed to open the present Royal Opera season in a role debut as Bellini’s Norma, and follow it up in New York later in the year. However, at relatively short notice she decided that the role was not for her and withdrew from both season-opening extravaganzas.

The official story was that the part no longer suited her stylistically. She put out a statement that said her voice “had evolved in a different direction”, a judgment backed up by Pappano last month, when he said he felt that Netrebko made the right decision based on the roles that her voice now suited.

The trouble is that Netrebko herself doesn’t buy it.

“I looked at the score. Honestly — I couldn’t even finish listening to the opera. I’m being honest with you. It’s so uninteresting for me. I don’t like the music. I don’t like the character. I tried, really, because this project was very important. But in the end I said, ‘I can’t, my heart is not there.’ And if it’s not there I can’t do anything special with it, and that’s the main reason I pulled out.”

Lady Macbeth, however, which will be Netrebko’s first Covent Garden role since Mimi in La Bohème in 2015, excites her because of the character’s dramatic nuances. “It was the easiest role for me to act. Finally I can be myself.” She doesn’t mean that she is murderously manipulative or especially keen on haggis. “It means if I don’t want to smile and be nice on stage, I can just do that. Lady Macbeth’s reactions are absolutely normal. I don’t play her ‘evil’, just as a woman who loves her husband and who has lots of vanity of course . . . ” She pauses for a chesty laugh. “That’s how you play the tragedy, that’s how you play evil — don’t play evil!”

Building a character is what Netrebko enjoys most about opera now. It’s also why she has had altercations with directors over the years. Discussing Aida in Salzburg, when I ask if she will be blacked up to play Verdi’s enslaved Ethiopian princess, she sidesteps the question. “That’s another thing . . . but I hope because of Maestro [Riccardo] Muti, the production is not going to look too radical. Aida has to look spectacular. If you take out the atmosphere, it’s just a heavy Verdi opera.”

Another big-role debut looms at the New York Met in a forthcoming, but as yet unspecified season: Strauss’s murderous nymphette, Salome. “It’s a wonderful role — but there will be no undressing. Excuse me, at 50 years old no one is going to undress. But it’s a very interesting production, by Claus Guth.”

Netrebko is admirably frank about walking out on directors whose ideas she doesn’t get along with. “I’ve been singing on the stage for 25 years, and I put so much effort into every one of my performances, the voice, the emotions. I don’t want to spend time on crap. When you’re older, I think I have the right to choose what is good for me. And if I won’t be at my best, I’d rather give time for my family, or rest, or study something new. Right?”

What about the fans who have booked especially to hear her? She pauses. “Da, it’s sad, but usually if I cancel, I cancel before tickets go on sale, so it’s not a big tragedy.”

Netrebko was born in Krasnodar, in southern Russia, not far from the Black Sea. She divides her time between Vienna (she is an Austrian citizen) and New York. She has not forgotten her education at a musical school of hard knocks, however — her time as a young artist at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg in the mid-1990s, in a squad of jobbing young singers all trying to be noticed by the all-powerful conductor Valery Gergiev while the country imploded. “It was a hard time. There was no food, it was cold. But the theatre was beautiful, the music helped us to live.” Her goal was not fame or wealth. “It was more about performing. I wanted to learn how to sing really well.”

She thrived because of the sink-or-swim mentality, she says, not in spite of it. “I remember I sang in the evening Micaela [in Carmen] and at 11am I sang Rosina [in The Barber of Seville]. Or sometimes Gergiev could call and say, ‘I need you to come to Holland,’ or to fly to San Francisco.”

Mostly she said yes. “It all depends on you. You have to be smart. If you say no too many times at the beginning of your career you will stay nowhere. But no one ever forced me to do anything.”

Netrebko has had uncomfortable brushes with politics. In 2014 the singer was photographed posing with a flag of Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebels after she made a donation to Donetsk opera house, in the war-torn east of the country. The year before, when she sang in Eugene Onegin at the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera season, protests targeting her and Gergiev were triggered by the passing of a law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships” in Russia.

“The thing about gay rights is that more than half of my friends are gay,” she says. “Does that say something to you?” Should it? “In Russia, this was not a Putin decision. It was made by the government. In Russia, lots of people don’t know about gay people, they just know the things that scare them, it’s like it was 50 years ago, everywhere.”

As an artist, shouldn’t she wave a flag for the causes that matter to her? “No more flags in my life, one was enough,” she replies, drily. “I’m open. I’m very friendly. In the the Soviet Union they educated us to love and appreciate every other culture, and that’s how I am.”

Netrebko shares life on the road with her husband, the Azeri tenor Yusif Eyvazov. They married in December 2015 in a ceremony in a Viennese palace in which Netrebko wore a €2 million Chopard tiara. She also has an eight-year-old son, Tiago, from a previous relationship with the baritone Erwin Schrott. “I cannot leave my son for more than two, three weeks. So we try to stay together as much as possible.”

Tiago is autistic, but Netrebko says that he has benefited hugely from a specialist educational technique, ABA (applied behaviour analysis), in New York. “He’s extremely smart, he’s made gigantic progress.” In September he will start at a regular school in Vienna. Does his father play a role in his life? Schrott’s schedule must be as packed as hers. Now comes what seems like a silent snarl. “A little bit.”

It was Muti who acted as de facto matchmaker for Netrebko and Eyvazov; the couple met on the conductor’s production of Manon Lescaut in Rome. “He put our voices together and God bless him, because the voices match and we have so much repertoire.” Putting work aside is not hard for the couple, she says. “At home we are very quiet, very calm, doing other things — nothing to do with music. That helps us to stay grounded, and interested.”

She squeals when I suggest that the pair’s dazzling Instagram feed — sometimes literally so when the pair wear matching DayGlo togs — reflects a lifestyle worthy of an oligarch. “I’m just doing the photos wherever I am, because life is so amazing, and I want to share it with people.” Yes, one of the experiences she recently snapped was performing at a wedding party in a five-star London hotel where other artists on the bill included Elton John and Mariah Carey. However, this was a one-off. “They were our friends [getting married], they are very rich people, but so nice. We almost never attend this kind of thing, but we had a great time.”

Netrebko is a southern Russian and of a sunnier disposition than most of her compatriots, but her attitude to success is far from Pollyanna-ish, more Tolstoy-ish. “I know it will finish one day. Sooner or later it will be over, like everything in life. I understand this, that you have to think philosophically about it.”

With that in mind, what would she say to singers who are starting out now, hoping for awards by the shovelful, ovations at La Scala or gigs with Mariah? Her philosophical well, it seems, has run dry. “Drop this dreadful job!” she shouts, before dissolving into peals of laughter.
Anna Netrebko’s latest album, Verismo, is out on DG

Winners of the 2017 International Opera awards

Opera company
Opéra de Lyon

Female singer
Anna Netrebko

Male singer
Lawrence Brownlee

Readers’ award sponsored by Opera magazine
Juan Diego Flórez

Lifetime achievement
Renata Scotto

Director
Christof Loy

World premiere
Thomas Adès: The Exterminating Angel (Salzburg Festival)

Chorus
Arnold Schoenberg Chor

Conductor
Philippe Jordan

Designer
Klaus Grünberg

Education & outreach
Natalya Sats Children’s Musical Theatre, Moscow

Festival
Wexford Festival Opera

Leadership in opera
Bernard Foccroulle

New production
Kaija Saariaho: L’amour de loin, d. Robert Lepage (Metropolitan Opera)

Newcomer
Lorenzo Viotti (Conductor)

Philanthropist
Fedora

Recording (complete opera)
Pique Dame (BR Klassik)

Recording (solo recital)
Pretty Yende: A Journey (Sony)

Rediscovered work
Wladyslaw Żeleński: Goplana (Polish National Opera)

Special award in memoriam
Alberto Zedda

Young singer
Louise Alder
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anna ... -37ffn6hfj

John F
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Re: Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

Post by John F » Mon May 08, 2017 5:30 am

The official reason was correct: Norma is a role for a dramatic soprano with agility, and Netrebko isn't that. If she'd sung it, she would have been a failure. When she actually got to work on the opera ("looked at the score" indeed!), perhaps she realized what she was in for. She may also dislike the opera and the role, as she says; Jon Vickers similarly decided very late in the day that he didn't like the role of Tannhäuser, for personal rather than vocal reasons. (Reasons that didn't make sense, by the way.) But that's her problem, not Bellini's. Wagner, hardly a bel canto enthusiast, not only conducted "Norma" but composed a couple of numbers for inclusion in it. Norma was Maria Callas's most frequent and perhaps her most characteristic role. It's not uninteresting, then - far from it. But that's the thing about divas, they're a law unto themselves, and if it suits them to break a contract for whatever reason or no good reason, they tend to get away with it.
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

Post by lennygoran » Mon May 08, 2017 5:36 am

John F wrote:
Mon May 08, 2017 5:30 am
The official reason was correct: Norma is a role for a dramatic soprano with agility, and Netrebko isn't that. If she'd sung it, she would have been a failure. When she actually got to work on the opera ("looked at the score" indeed!), perhaps she realized what she was in for. She may also dislike the opera and the role, as she says; Jon Vickers similarly decided very late in the day that he didn't like the role of Tannhäuser, for personal rather than vocal reasons. (Reasons that didn't make sense, by the way.) But that's her problem, not Bellini's. Wagner, hardly a bel canto enthusiast, not only conducted "Norma" but composed a couple of numbers for inclusion in it. Norma was Maria Callas's most frequent and perhaps her most characteristic role. It's not uninteresting, then - far from it. But that's the thing about divas, they're a law unto themselves, and if it suits them to break a contract for whatever reason or no good reason, they tend to get away with it.
Thanks so much for this very informative message-amazing about Wagner! Regards, Len :D

John F
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Re: Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

Post by John F » Mon May 08, 2017 7:27 am

Wagner imitating Bellini's style, and doing it convincingly:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlgBiV6_GeA
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

Post by lennygoran » Mon May 08, 2017 8:01 am

John F wrote:
Mon May 08, 2017 7:27 am
Wagner imitating Bellini's style, and doing it convincingly
Amazing! Regards, Len :lol:

maestrob
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Re: Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

Post by maestrob » Mon May 08, 2017 11:22 am

Wagner's early style did indeed have roots in Bellini. The Dutchman's big aria in very Bellini-esque, if you look at the score, with chromatic passages that are right out of Norma.

OTOH, I had no idea that Wagner himself had composed parts of Norma: can you please explain further? Or am I misunderstanding you?

John F
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Re: Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

Post by John F » Mon May 08, 2017 11:57 am

Wagner composed that aria with chorus for insertion in "Norma," which he was conducting in Riga in 1837. As for what you say about the Dutchman's monologue being "Bellini-esque," I couldn't disagree more. Just yesterday I was listening to Wagner's opera (the Clemens Krauss recording with Hotter), and in that monologue Wagner impressively found his own distinctive dramatic voice - I don't hear a trace of Bellini in it. Is there a particular passage in "Norma" which you believe has an echo in this? No doubt you have something in mind but I don't hear it at all.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR827GboOSs
Last edited by John F on Tue May 09, 2017 8:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
John Francis

barney
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Re: Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

Post by barney » Tue May 09, 2017 4:24 am

I'm afraid Netrebko comes across to me as rather precious. Everybody's work involves bits they find harder than others, and they have to get on with it. The time to have reservations is before you agree to do it.

John F
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Re: Netrebko Doesn't Like Norma [Opera awards]

Post by John F » Tue May 09, 2017 8:17 am

The problem is that top singers (and other musicians) sign contracts years in advance, something like five years. They and the performing organization have to anticipate the state of the voice and its suitable repertoire without really knowing how it's going to be. This is less of a problem with singers who stick with the same roles and repertoire throughout their careers; Joan Sutherland for example. But for singers who aren't content with that, but want to take on new challenges, voices do change with time and use, and it must be easy to guess wrong. They can't all be like Placido Domingo, who has repeatedly defied the experts and the odds by taking on roles like Otello and the whole baritone repertory and succeeding. And by still singing his new roles as well as he does at age 76.
John Francis

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