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Russian Soprano Takes on Bellini

Russian Soprano Takes on Bellini

It ought to be a good thing when Anna Netrebko lets down her hair.
After all, it's thick and black and shiny _ in a word, gorgeous like everything else about the young Russian soprano.
Yet there was something artificial about the moment when _ in the middle of the Act II mad scene from Bellini's "I Puritani" at the Metropolitan Opera on Wednesday night _ Netrebko staggered to the front of the stage and lay on her back with her tresses dangling into the orchestra pit.
She didn't sing a false note, but she struck one. It was as if this charismatic performer, whose stage instincts are usually flawless, was overcompensating for the fact that she simply couldn't conquer all the vocal challenges of one of the most demanding bel canto roles in the repertory.
Not that she didn't give it an honorable try. Her character Elvira, a Puritan maid who is in love with a Royalist nobleman, goes through a bewildering array of emotions in quick succession _ from despair to joy to madness to joy again _ all set to some of Bellini's most intricate and daunting melodies.
Netrebko displayed a good but not flawless coloratura technique, blurring some runs and offering only a partial trill. She avoided some high-flying passagework in favor of lower alternatives, but on several occasions when she had to venture above high C she came through fearlessly.
It didn't help that she was competing with the memory of the great Joan Sutherland, who brought her unrivaled technique to the role at the Met on two different occasions, 20 and 30 years ago.
Still, Netrebko sang the part with great feeling and pathos, her voice notably lighter sounding than during her recent Mimi in Puccini's "La Boheme." And except for the hair incident, she did as good a job of bringing the character to believable life as seems possible.
Netrebko seems determined to make her mark in all manner of repertory, from Mozart to Donizetti to Puccini, and it may well be that bel canto roles help keep her voice in good health. Still, based on this "Puritani," that isn't where her greatest strength or her future lies.
Better support might have helped. Tenor Eric Cutler, who was to sing the role of her beloved Arturo, was ill, and his replacement, Gregory Kunde, sounded pinched and shaky all night, despite a couple of prodigious high notes. Bass John Relyea as Elvira's sympathetic uncle Giorgio was announced as recovering from bronchitis, and when he and baritone Franco Vassallo joined forces for the famous duet "Suoni la tromba," it didn't quite stop the show as it should. The 1976 production by Sandro Sequi is by now creaking from old age.
Patrick Summers conducted the orchestra in a lethargic reading of the score that made its less inspired pages stand out all too clearly.
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http://www.metopera.org


Updated : 2020-12-05 10:14 GMT+08:00