Richard J. Miller, president of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, has dubbed soprano Anna Netrebko an “authentic 21st century superstar.” Few would disagree with that assessment or the choice of Netrebko as the honoree of the 84th Annual Guild Luncheon to be held Oct. 26, 2018.
Past honorees include Renée Fleming, Grace Bumbry, Mirella Freni, Sherrill Milnes, Renata Scotto, Jessye Norman, Kiri Te Kanawa, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, Plácido Domingo, and Franco Zeffirelli.
Netrebko’s sudden rise to stardom has a Cinderella-like quality. While a student in St. Petersburg, she worked as a cleaning lady mopping the floors of the Mariinsky Theatre.
However, when she was discovered, she was not on the job singing while she worked. Rather, she won first prize in the Mikhail Glinka vocal competition in 1993, after which she auditioned for a supporting role in the Mariinsky Opera’s 1994 production of Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” (“The Marriage of Figaro”). The director and leading conductor of the company, Valery Gergiev, soon moved Netrebko to the more prominent role of Susanna.
Gergiev became her mentor and brought her to the United States in 1995 to play the title role (Lyudmila) in San Francisco Opera’s production of Glinka’s “Russlan and Lyudmila.”
The role of Natasha in Prokofiev’s “War and Peace” marked her debut at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden in 2000 and her debut at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera two years later.
While she sings in the world’s leading opera and concert stages, she has been a regular presence in New York City. She is the only soprano to have opened the Met season for three consecutive years (2011–13).
What makes Netrebko special is not only the beauty of her voice but her total commitment and the physicality she endows each role. For example, in “Don Pasquale,” she performed a somersault (which she continued to do shortly after giving birth to her son). In “Il Trovatore,” her Leonora climbed up a gate. In the Letter Scene from “Eugene Onegin,” which sopranos usually sing sitting at a desk, she traversed the stage.
As her voice has grown darker over time, she has moved from bel canto operas to verismo ones. Though she appears mostly in Italian and French works, her performances of Russian operas and songs are especially notable. Her stunning portrayal of the blind title character in Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” at the Met made one wonder why this Tchaikovsky opera is so rarely presented in this country.
Netrebko has amassed a number of awards, from the Russian State Prize, to Musical America’s 2008 “Musician of the Year”; Germany’s Bambi Award; the UK’s Classic BRIT Awards for “Singer of the Year” and “Female Artist of the Year”; and 11 German ECHO Klassik awards, including “Female Singer of the Year” in 2014 and 2016. In 2017, while headlining at the Met’s 50th-anniversary gala concert, Netrebko was named “Female Singer of the Year” by the International Opera Awards. Playboy Magazine proclaimed that she is “one of the sexiest babes in classical music.”
Her latest audio release is “Romanza” (on Deutsche Grammophon) in which she and her husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, sing love songs written for them by producer Igor Krutoy. The set also contains a bonus disc of popular classical arias from previous Netrebko albums.
Anna Netrebko will give a recital at Carnegie Hall on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. She will be accompanied by pianist Malcolm Martineau and the program will include songs by Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Tchaikovsky.
She will return to the Metropolitan Opera to play the title characters in Verdi’s “Aida” (Sept. 26, 29 and Oct 2, 6, and 11) and in Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur” (Dec. 31 2018; Jan. 4, 8, 12, 16, 19 2019).
For Opera Guild luncheon information or to purchase tickets, please visit the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s website or call 212-769-7009.
Barry Bassis has been a music, theater, and travel writer for over a decade for various publications, including Epoch Times.