Anna Netrebko & Yusif Eyvazov – Romanza
Session Orchestra Los Angeles
William Ross, conductor
Session Orchestra London
Ben Foster, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2017
Romanza is the third album that Anna Netrebko and her husband Yusif Eyvazov have recorded together in one year. Eyvazov made a brief appearance in Netrebko’s album Verismo (released in September 2016) and was the male protagonist in Manon Lescaut (December 2016), a position he retains in Romanza too, as the programme of the recording is based on Netrebko and Eyvazov’s love story, a story began during rehearsals for Manon Lescaut in Rome in 2014 and culminated in their wedding in December 2015. From that moment onwards, the presence of Eyvazov at his wife’s side has been assiduous and inevitable, unfortunately with disputable results.
Romanza: the Programme
Romanza includes only light music in the first CD (it is a double disc set). Its songs have been composed by Igor Krutoy, one of the most popular Russian songwriters, already famous in the West for the vocal cycle recorded by Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Krutoy wrote the songs with the voices of Netrebko and Eyvazov in mind and developed the love theme in any possible direction, as the texts reveal.
Anyway, love is always love and, as several famous writers pointed out in the previous centuries, happy love is one of the most unrewarding subjects as it is usually interesting only for the twin soul. The songs are beautiful indeed, but they become repetitive after a while and it is hardly endurable to hear all eighteen of them together. Romanticism, tenderness, affection – all ends in dullness, to the point that the last song is welcomed with relief. The theme is not wrong, only there is too much of it.
Romanza: Anna Netrebko
Anna Netrebko has an unquestionable ascendancy on the audience and her artistic qualities have been pointed out on many occasions. I personally do not share the general opinion that she is an actress as well as a singer, but the rare and precious timbre of her voice would have been sufficient to justify her fabulous career if it was corresponded by a sound technique. On the contrary, in the recent years Netrebko’s voice has deteriorated irremediably and the most marked weaknesses are her usually wrong high notes and her shortage of breath, to which corresponds an almost total indifference to her heroines’ psychology, with the consequence that her singing is monotonous, as Verismo has already shown.
This is more or less what happens in Romanza. Netrebko’s deep breaths are the usual end of a short sentence and her high notes are not more precise here than elsewhere. The only good thing is that she sings with more pathos than in any other of her recent performances, both on stage and in studio, but in her effort to emphasize the words Netrebko exaggerates the pronunciation of some letters, with the result that the demonstrative adjectives “questo” and “quello” (“this” and “that”) become “quvesto” and “quvello” and elsewhere the consonant “c” is unpleasantly accentuated, as when she repeats “cantami” in the homonymous song.
Romanza: Yusif Eyvazov
Her partner is far from being satisfactory too. Eyvazov is not convincing as an operatic singer (the recording of Manon Lescaut is revealing in this regard), but also as a singer of light music he does not come to expectation. He sings, of course, and continues to sing to the end, but how he sings is another matter. He is superficial and his intonation is chronically inaccurate. The only, small consolation is that at least he pronounces clearly the Italian language.
There is nothing to add about him. Considering Netrebko’s influence and the fact that the second CD of Romanza is just a collection of her “best of”, including arias from her previous albums, the only possible conclusion is that this recording is not actually the account of a love story, but this is a pretext (not the first and unfortunately not the last) to exploit the image of a primadonna and to draw the general attention on a singer (Eyvazov) who otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
Romanza is Anna Netrebko’s worst recording so far. It is mawkish, pedestrian and its songs are performed in a way that is deplorable in a singer who is considered the greatest of our time.