Anna Netrebko Antonio Pappano VerismoAnna Netrebko – Verismo

with Yusif Eyvazov, tenor

Coro e Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Antonio Pappano, conductor

Deutsche Grammophon, 2016

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After listening to the much publicized Verismo more than once, I must confess that I was not able to find in it the authoritativeness that it would have been reasonable to expect from one of the leading sopranos of our time.

Anna Netrebko’s voice has darkened and strengthened and it is perfectly suited to this repertoire, but unfortunately there are other factors that prevented me from enjoying the album.

The Russian soprano has serious problems of intonation and her low register is rather limited and forces her to open up the vowels. Her diction, however, has never been impeccable, although it seems that this time it was more correct than usual: apart from Netrebko’s way to sing the vowels, which sound always close to an “o”, what is really unpleasant is the way she pronounces the demonstrative adjectives «questa», «quel» and any other word with -kw- (I borrow from linguistics), which always sounds «qvuesta», «qvuello». It is enough to think how she says In questa reggia, and, in the same piece, I remember also «qvuel grido», «qvui nell’anima mia».

Moreover, she seems often short of breath. In Vissi d’arte, she has to pause very often and, when the tempo becomes just a little livelier as in Qual fiamma avea nel guardo, she does not seem completely at ease.

Yet, all this could have been forgotten if it was supported by a rich and intense interpretation. However, in this case there is nothing so significant. Verismo seems the constant repetition of an identical performance that, in short, does not differentiate Tosca from Liù. Only Turandot preserves its originality because, at least, Netrebko’s voice becomes almost “liquid”, with a remarkable effect.

In the other arias, however, there is not a nuance, an accent, which is remarkable. Think for example of Adriana’s Io sono l’umile ancella, where the only suggestive passage is at the end (“un soffio è la mia voce”, with its fabulous softness) and the rest lacks that temperament and incisiveness that embellish this aria.

The same can be said of Nedda’s Qual fiamma avea nel guardo, where Netrebko’s voice adds luminosity to the pivotal sentence “io son piena di vita” and this, together with her trill, gives for a while some colour to a piece which is quite dull.

It seems that she relies entirely on the beauty of her voice and never cares to enrich it with deeper nuances. Instead, the characters never become flat thanks only to a marvellous timbre. Expression is a necessity, especially when you sing Verismo roles, but in this recording appears only rarely, as in the subdued beginning of Signore, ascolta, where however its premises dissipate quickly. I ignore if Netrebko thought to create idealized heroines made, so to speak, “of pure spirit”, but if this can still be acceptable for Wally, Liù and, in a certain sense, Adriana, it is a limit at least for Butterfly and Gioconda.

As for Yusif Eyvazov, who appears briefly in the finale of In questa reggia and in the fourth act of Manon Lescaut, he is almost overwhelmed by the orchestra in the former and is almost irrelevant in the latter.

Antonio Pappano and the wonderful Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia desperately try to colour this dull recording. The conductor sometimes launches some hints that only occasionally the soprano receives. More often, however, he prefers to go his own way, which is far more varied and interesting.

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