Anna Netrebko's Russian soul shines at Lyric Opera of Chicago

  • International star soprano Anna Netrebko demonstrates world-class singing at her recital at Lyric Opera of Chicago Dec. 2.

    International star soprano Anna Netrebko demonstrates world-class singing at her recital at Lyric Opera of Chicago Dec. 2. Courtesy of Todd Rosenberg

  • Scottish pianist Malcolm Martineau accompanied Anna Netrebko. Celebrated American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano also joined Anna in a few selections during her recital.

    Scottish pianist Malcolm Martineau accompanied Anna Netrebko. Celebrated American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano also joined Anna in a few selections during her recital. Courtesy of Todd Rosenberg

Submitted by community contributor Natalia Dagenhart
Updated 12/4/2018 6:18 PM

If God gives you a talent, he wants you to share it. It becomes your destiny to live for other people and realize God's plan to make this world more beautiful, kind, and loving. God gives people different tools to do it, and Russian-born operatic singer Anna Netrebko received a gift from above that she has been sharing with everyone for many years already. This gift is her voice. Strong, magnificent, glorious, spectacular, -- which word could describe it the best? Seems like there are not enough words to fully describe the way Anna sings. You just have to hear it.

This year, Lyric Opera was the only place in Chicago that gave its audiences an opportunity to hear the sumptuous voice of this acclaimed singer. Anna Netrebko's recital "Day and Night" took place on Sunday, Dec. 2, at one of the most beautiful opera houses in North America, the Lyric Opera House.


This rare recital offered its audience a unique opportunity to hear Anna in some of her favorite repertoire, including numerous Russian romance songs that Anna performed in Russian. One of the leading accompanists of his generation, esteemed Scottish pianist Malcolm Martineau, accompanied Anna. His unique talent to make piano and the human voice sound like one living organism sparkled the Lyric's stage and added special color to Anna's voice, which was shining with rich texture and extreme depth. Martineau has performed with top world-renowned singers throughout Europe, North America, the Far East and Australasia. His participation in Netrebko's recital at Lyric Opera of Chicago became another gem in the colorful palette of his outstanding musical career.

The history of operatic arts has seen many great singers, and the name of Anna Netrebko definitely has its own honorable place in the constellation of world-renowned and remarkable opera names. Being one of the top singers of our time, Netrebko reaches new horizons of vocal mastery and demonstrates the endless abilities of the human voice. She weaves the fiber of her inborn talent by continually discovering new vocal techniques, enriching the timber of her voice with touching characteristics, and adding endless artistic nuances to her voice and overall presentation.

Audiences from all over the globe have been praising the genius of Netrebko for years. She has been seen at the most prestigious stages in the world and has been always welcomed with a full house. Anna is deeply loved in her motherland, Russia, where she frequently has appeared in various opera productions, concert programs, and television shows. She also has impressed wide international audiences outside of the opera and concert stage, such as at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. A native of Krasnodar, which is located in the south of Russia, Netrebko carries the warmth of the generous Russian soil, which is known for producing extremely talented people.

Netrebko collaborates with highly skilled professionals from all over the world. The recital in Chicago featured acclaimed violinist Robert Hanford, who has been concertmaster of the Lyric Opera Orchestra since the 2004-2005 season. Hanford also serves as concertmaster during the summer at the Aspen Music Festival and has been seen in performances with various American orchestras. Celebrated American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano also joined Anna in a few selections during her recital. Cano is well-known in the United States and Europe and has performed at numerous prestigious venues, including the Metropolitan Opera and Boston Lyric Opera. The voices of these two talented singers beautifully complemented each other and impressed the audience.

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The carefully selected repertoire for this beautiful matinee started with three romance songs, or romances, written by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Full of gentle emotions and dramatic fullness, they opened some of the parts of the miraculous Russian soul. Russian romance is usually a song that has a romantic meaning and rich accompaniment that is as important as the solo. While the first romance, called "Siren" ("Lilacs"), demonstrated Anna's endless charm and nice low notes, the second one, called "U moego okna" ("Before my window"), showed her beautiful chain breathing technique and clear high notes. The third one, called "Zdes' horosho" (How lovely it is here), became a great example of dramaturgy and the brilliance of her voice.

The celebration of Russian romance continued with the romance written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov called "Zvonche zhavoronka pen'e" ("The lark sings louder"), which showed Anna's vocal energy and emotion. It was followed by a sensitive song called "Morgen" ("Tomorrow") that demonstrated the magnificent timbre of her voice. Hanford joined Netrebko and Martineau to present this piece. After that, Anna performed "Il pleure dans mon coeur" ("Tears fall in my heart") by Claude Debussy. This dramatic piece demonstrated the fullness of her low notes and her extreme artistry.

Netrebko presented every song in its own individual way. Her first class opera singing was in everything -- the way she moved on the stage, the way she presented herself, and the way she produced a sound. The next song, "Aria of Louise": "Depuis le jour" ("Ever since the day") by Gustave Charpentier, once again demonstrated Anna's fantastic high notes, beautiful passages and the extreme sincerity in her presentation. This touching aria was followed by two Russian romances by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovksy -- "To bylo ranneju vesnoj" (It happened in the early spring), which demonstrated Anna's deep Russian soul and artistry, and "Skazhi o chem v teni vetvej" (Tell me, what in the shadows of branches), with its rich sound and glorious emotions. The first part of the concert ended with "Go not, happy day" by Frank Bridge, where Anna was playful and light, and with "Mattinata" (Morning) by Ruggero Leoncavallo, where she demonstrated the elegance of her voice and joyful mood.

After the intermission, Netrebko was joined by Cano. Together, they performed Duet of Lisa and Polina: "Uzh vecher" (It is evening) from Tchaikovsky's opera "Pikovaya Dama." Their voices complemented each other in this touching and lovely duet. It was followed by Rimsky-Korsakov's romance "Redeet oblakov letuchaja grjada" (The clouds begin to scatter) and Tchaikovsky's romance "Nochi bezumnye" (Sleepless nights). Once again, Anna showed the passion and the yearning of the mysterious Russian soul.


The evening continued with Netrebko's gorgeous presentation of works created by Strauss and Gabriel Faure, Antonín Dvorák and Rachmaninoff, Douglass Moore and Jacques Offenbach. For the presentation of Offenbach's Duet of Giulietta and Nicklausse "Belle nuit, o nuit d'amour" (Barcarolle), Cano again joined Netrebko, and together they presented this unforgettable piece. The evening was supposed to end with Tchaikovsky's elegant, emotional and rich "Den' li carit" (Whether day dawns). However, the standing ovations lasted so long, that Netrebko presented an encore, which was a festive "Il Bacio" by Luigi Arditi. When Anna saw that the audience still didn't want to leave, she pleased it with triumphant "Cäcilie" by Richard Strauss.

The recital was over, but Chicago was already waiting for the return of this prima donna with her rich Russian soul and heavenly voice.

• Natalia Dagenhart, an artist from Naperville, writes about classical music and opera.

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