Posted in Music, Opera

Anna and Salome Arrive in Style

Anna Netrebko
The Diva Herself

Anna Netrebko is a peach. She’s also a star with a capital “S.” I’ve just seen the final dress rehearsal of the Met’s new production of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena” scheduled to open the new season next Monday, and Anna N. as Anna B. is amazing. She holds stage like nobody’s business, and that big, dark soprano of hers fills the house. Fortunately she’s matched by the Henry VIII of Ildar Abdrazakov, whom I had never heard live before. He’s got command and his rolling bass is a great complement to Netrebko’s sound. Mezzo Ekatarina Gubanova plays Jane (aka “Giovanna”) Seymour, and when the two ladies square off for their confrontation in the second act, there’s some superlative singing indeed. And I couldn’t care less that neither has a trill.

“Anna Bolena” was Donizetti’s big hit, pre-“Lucia di Lammermoor,” but I think the former is the better opera. The drama never stops. Donizetti threw in two plot twists that have no basis in reality–a prior marriage between Anna and Richard Percy, and a mad scene in the Tower of London before she meets the headsman–but so what. It’s not a documentary, it’s opera. I’m only sorry there’s no glass armonica to accompany Anna’s loony tunes as there is for Lucia, but hey–you can’t have everything.

This was the second dress rehearsal of a new production I’ve attended via a Met subscribers’ lottery, and I enjoy these tremendously. The audience is reminded at the start that this is a working rehearsal, not a performance, so the action may stop and repeat, which is what happened today. Things literally came to a screeching halt during the last scene change of the opera when the elevator stage apparently snagged on something and a 15-minute break was called. It was worth waiting out because Anna Netrebko’s mad scene, which immediately followed, was rightly cheered and “brava’ed” at length. Charmingly, she finally broke character, smiled and applauded, pointing directly at Marco Armiliato, a true singer’s conductor.

“Anna Bolena” is the first of this season’s Met HD telecasts, scheduled for October 15th. This one is definitely worth seeing.

Last night’s New York Philharmonic season opener came courtesy of PBS’ “Live from Lincoln Center.” While this Samuel Barber fiend was put out by the slow tempo of the Overture to “The School for Scandal,” I thought conductor Alan Gilbert and Deborah Voigt did an excellent job with his “Andromache’s Farewell.” But the big draw was the second half of the program, which consisted of three selections from Richard Strauss’s “Salome”–the “Intermezzo,” the “Dance of the Seven Veils” and most memorably, Salome’s final scene where she kisses the mouth of John the Baptist’s severed head. Deborah Voigt relished this, and after her somewhat constricted performance of Wagner’s “Dich teure Halle,” it was a relief to hear her soar in the Strauss. Alan Gilbert brought out all the weirdness and perversity of the “Salome” selections, and the orchestra sounded more involved than I’ve heard in quite a while.

PBS usually repeats these performances, so check your local listings as they say, as well as the New York Philharmonic website.

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