Anna Netrebko offered a delightful matinee recital at Chicago’s Lyric Opera on December 2.
The program was carefully curated to encompass the Day and Night title, as well as feature the Russian singer’s homeland composers, including Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Rimsky-Korsakov, in addition to Debussy, Dvorak, Faure, Richard Strauss, and others, including more modern composers.
Netrebko’s Lyric debut was as Mimi in La Boheme in 2013, and is the first classical artist to be named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.
Her exuberance is palpable; her technique pristine. During the almost two-hour program (with two encores, “Il Bacio” by Luigi Arditi, and “Cäcilie” by Richard Strauss), the operatic soprano effortlessly trilled and lofted the high notes, then slid down range to dynamically hold the supporting phrases. The program, accompanied by Scottish pianist Malcolm Martineau, debuted in Austria, where she also holds citizenship.
For the first half of the program, she was a day in white satin, working her grand, pastel-flowered gown (by Russian designer Vitaz) in front of a simple scrims setting, underneath a mammoth chandelier. She held a bouquet of flowers for the first few songs, embracing then sprinkling them on stage. Nature themes also dominated the text, which Netrebko handled with ease, lightness, and power, stewarding the repertoire.
Lyric’s concertmaster and violinist Robert Hanford joined her for a lovely duet, and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, in a gray gown, provided harmony on two songs.
After intermission, Netrebko returned in a Kiss of the Spider Woman sparkly black gown with a fan front (by Russian designer Yanina). She added a coquettish hand fan in her second duet with Cano, and arrived with a silver star balloon at the top. The bucolic themes continued, alongside silver and dream motifs.
Netrebko shares her remarkable instrument with precision and joy, and genuinely engages with her compatriots and the audience.
Tchaikovsky asks, and Netrebko sings, “What is that which everyone knows but it always new?”
Why love, of course, as explored in the light and dark aspects of this recital, explored with precision and delight – get or give a Netrebko CD this holiday season – from Russia, with love.