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”.