Anna Netrebko in Salzburg

Yesterday at the Orchesterhauptprobe (main orchestra rehearsal) for Le Nozze di Figaro at the Salzburg Festival I had the chance to hear, for the first time, the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko. What a big disappointment. It’s not that Netrebko is a bad singer (she is a fairly good one), or that she doesn’t look well on stage (she does). The problem seems to be that she employs one stereotype after the other, both in her singing and acting. Her articulation and phrasing are unimaginative, they sound like empty formulas. There is absolutely no wit in her interpretation, she just never surprizes or stuns the audience. Her gestures and movements on stage look much like recipes from a do-it-yourself-acting-kit, every third rate school acting company has a better repertory of acting tools. What is it that makes people pay ridiculous amounts to listen to her?

As it is common for main orchestra rehearsals at Salzburg, half of the audience consists of local folks who happen to know someone who is working for the festival. The other half of the audience is usually comprised of photographers. It’s amusing to hear the cameras do ‘click’ whenever beautiful Anna comes near a male singer. The clicking becomes especially furious in those scenes in which Anna finds herself in an ambiguous pose. Ligeti would be amused to find out that his Poeme Symphonique works not only with metronomes, but also with two hundred over-testosteronized press photographers.

Enough Netrebko-bashing! Let’s focus on the many good things there are to say about this production. The Vienna Philharmonic, as always sloppy in rehearsals and (hopefully) better in concert, would probably do much better without Nikolaus Harnoncourt, but it’s fun to watch his funny faces and movements anyhow. Christine Schäfer is just wonderful. Her Cherubino is sooo lovesick, beautiful, and emotional that it drove tears to everyone’s eyes. Claus Guth’s idea to include a silent and invisible Cupido who functions as Cherubino’s alter ego works wonderfully. This shadow-like figure is the motor and catalyzer for the tragedy (is it really one?). He dances inbetween characters, spins them around and guides them like puppets, causes confusion, or watches the drama silently. When the drama resolves, Cupido has lost his power over the humans; dispiritedly he grovels off-stage. In the end, like in every good drama, morals and virtue prevail, don’t they?

If you want to watch this production you should tune your TV to ORF 2 Europe on July 26. They will do a live broadcast of the premiere at 19:55 MEZ. Or, even better, you can contact me if you’re one of those people who pay ridiculous amounts to listen to Anna Netrebko live. I have a ticket for the dress rehearsal that I would like to “give away”.


6 comments for “Anna Netrebko in Salzburg”

  1. Ein absolut imposanter Vergleich zwischen dem Poeme Symphonique und dem fotografischen Auflauf.

    Posted by Huflaikhan | September 15, 2006, 7:11 pm
  2. ;-)

    Posted by Matthias Röder | September 15, 2006, 8:53 pm
  3. How sad that critics are just that ,,can’t sing ,can’t act just write bitter little pieces of sad viewpoints Hey man get a life preferably on another Planet ………hopefully in another galexy far far away .Here is a young soprano with talent to burn Souncd like this critic has sour grapes may he choke on them

    Posted by maryanne | March 29, 2007, 9:04 am
  4. I totally agree with you Maryanne. I have listened to Anna’s rendition of Dvorak’s ‘song to the moon’ and it was just about the most beautiful thing I ever heard. I really don’t understand why this guy would criticize Anna so harshly. She’s like a breath of fresh air in the classical music scene.

    Posted by Alex | June 22, 2007, 7:52 am
  5. It’s astonishing that both of you, Alex and Maryanne, seem to unaware of the fact that I was writing about a particular performance, not Ms. Netrebko’s singing in general. Maybe I should mention that my personal opinion was supported by others who were at the performance and by various critics wo wrote articles for newspapers about the performance. (Granted, they weren’t writing about _this_ performance which was a general rehearsal, but rather about the premiere which took place two days later).

    Anyhow, I guess what I want to say is, that musicians have good and bad days. Sometimes they do well in some productions and not so well in others. Sometimes singers fit well into a concept of a staging and sometimes they don’t. Also it is my strong belief that recordings are absolutely NOT indicative of the quality of a musician. We may like them and even cherish them but they do not contain real music. Real music happens on stage, or at home when you play your piano. Live music without a net is what counts….

    I also wanted to point out that I heard an abolutely wonderful performance of Anna Netrebko in Berlin a couple of weeks ago. I intended to write about it here on this blog, but instead I chose to write about some of the political discussions surrounding this performance. That article can be found here: www.zeitschichten.com/2007/05/20/oper-fur-alle/

    Thank you both for taking your time to read this blog and thank you very, very much for your comments. It’s good to know that someone actually reads this!

    All the best,

    Posted by Matthias Röder | June 22, 2007, 10:47 am
  6. […] exactly one year after I heard Claus Guth’s Figaro in Salzburg, I had the chance to hear that same production again yesterday (again in the […]

    Posted by Zeitschichten » Blog Archive » Because once is never enough! | August 12, 2007, 5:18 pm

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