Cher Public

Pas de quatre

“La couleur dramatique l’emporte irrésistiblement, surtout quand il s’agit de satisfaire aux exigences insensées d’une écriture faite de combinaisons et d’alternances de registres vertigineux.”

So the critic for described Anna Netrebko‘s performance of the Vier letzte Lieder in collaboration with Daniele Gatti last month with the Orchestre National de France. You may hear and judge for yourself by clicking on this player.

(Anna’s set begins right at 15:15.)

  • zinka


    They would laugh today……Just amazing!!!!

    • gustave of montreal

      ahah ! Mado Robin ? Miaow

  • gustave of montreal

    L’Orchestre National de France, bon… hum, ce n’est qu’un autre orchestre. Le plus grand orchestre français -- qui n’est pas français -- est l’excellent Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.

  • laddie

    I get the gist of what is being said in the quote; I think google translate would make it worse. I would be ever grateful to someone for an even more enlightening translation.

    • Cuban_Stallion

      How about:
      [Writing about Frühling, speaking about Anna’s vocal line]
      “The dramatic color irresistibly prevails, especially when it comes to meeting the insane demands of a compositional style made up of combining and alternating dizzying registers.”

      • laddie

        Thank you!

  • Hmmm… I’m not thrilled with this. She is in good voice for the most part (a couple of dips in the lowest part aside). She has good (and often interesting) expression throughout but musically, I find this lacking. There are nice little phrases here and there but the line is bumpy for the most part. And there’s no sense of repose in the moments requiring stillness.

    • PCally

      I agree. However, it’s much better than the Barenboim recording.

    • My quibble would be with the statement “requiring stillness.” I realize that “stillness” and “repose” are the traditional approach here but I question whether that approach is the only one that can be valid.

      It seems to me that Netrebko’s take is very human, in the sense that the “drama” here is of a (necessarily) limited human mind struggling with the cosmic ideas expressed in the poetry. I mean, it is one thing to say

      O weiter, stiller Friede!
      So tief im Abendrot.

      and another thing altogether to accept and to trust this “vast, silent joy” opening before one. Netrebko seems to remain on this side of the divide, awed and even a little terrified at the prospect of eternity. Is this (i.e., questioning, doubtful) not possibly also a valid reaction to this work, alongside the “repose” we hear from other interpreters?

      (I would agree, though, that at this point in her career anyway, Netrebko doesn’t make a lot of sense as an “instrumental” singer, and a lot of listeners to this cycle are going to be looking for at least in part an instrumental/disembodied take.)

      • Fair enough. I’ll be honest and say that while I did read the words to these songs when I first got to know them years ago, I’m not familiar with them now. So, I was speaking more musically when it came to stillness. But your comment about an instrumental approach expresses my hesitation best. You’re right about her human take which is what I found interesting in her expression. And yes, I think it is a fair take on the work.

        • I just prefer a lighter, clearer voice in this piece. Anna Netrebko’s voice (for me) is too dark and thick. But this is really personal preference.

          This is the kind of voice I like in this piece:

          • I like both heavy and light voices in these songs. I love Bonney’s rendition with piano almost as much as Jessye’s epic take with orchestra. But I think that treating the voice instrumentally (as La Cieca alluded) is what’s needed for the heavier voices (for my taste, anyway). Mostly, I want a good command of line in these songs.

            • armerjacquino

              Bonney is on spectacular form on that recording, and it’s interesting to hear the VLL with piano accompaniment- even if a piano can’t possibly cope with the violin solo from Beim Schlafengehen.

          • I also think vibrato has a lot to do with it. Ordinarily, I love Netrebko’s “live” vibrato in the Italian rep but I prefer a more controlled, less present vibrato for these songs.

          • Bill

            Lisa della Casa’s rendition of the VLL has been
            and remains my absolute favorite among some
            superlative sopranos -- this does not take
            anything away from others I like, Schwarzkopf,
            Janowitz, Jurinac, Isokoski etc. Singers like Jessye Norman, as commanding as she is in this
            repertory, simply does not have the floating
            lyrical effervescence and purity of fresh sound which I prefer in these four songs. I agree with Ivy.

            • PCally

              My favorite is easily Popp (the first one), her voice was in peak form

            • LOVE the Popp!

          • And yet they were given their first performance by Kirsten Flagstad, a far from light voice.

            • PCally

              Strauss didn’t write them for Flagstad though, so it remains unclear what voice he heard in his head.

            • Camille

              For whom did he write them, then? Probably for the voice of Pauline de Ahna, which lived eternally in his memory.

              If Dr. Strauss did not write them specifically for Kirsten Flagstad, he most certainly did write a letter to her requesting she premier them, which she did.

              Strauss also wrote a letter to Hoffmanstahl which I happened upon once that he wanted to write the role of Ariadne, in the same opera, for a mezzosopran. If one looks at the compass of the voice and the mid-tessitura of a great deal, it seems he retained his original idea about doing just that, and would account for such disparate singers as both Ludwig and Schwarzkopf, e.g., singing the role.

              In the case of Anna Netrebko, if she commenced with Beim Schlafengehen and worked her way forward through the songs in the same manner as did Flagstad (and several others did as well) it would probably not expose her as cruelly as taking “Frühling” first. The order is not set in stone, so there is no reason for her not to.

              I did not listen to more than a few minutes of the Barenboim recording, but this outing seems to have improved quite a bit on the former, and, one must always remember, she is singing in a composition style (Strauss) and a Sprache (Deutsch) to which she is not accustomed. It takes time for it to get well worked into the voice and develop the correct line.

              There were many fine things and it seems the German was not so bad, not as bad as many other American singers’—so, I say, give her time with these. I do not hear her so much as a Straussian soprano, notwithstanding the fine acuti she is always capable of, so much as a potential Wagnerian one, because of the color and the texture and the depth of the middle voice, always so important in Wagner.

          • gustave of montreal

            Quite right, incomparable.

          • luvtennis

            Wow -- I cannot listen to this particular performance because I am busy at work, but I just listened to the Bohm and truthfully, the she is musically ALL over the place in that recording. Strange, I used to LOVE her in this music too.

            For me, Jessye, Margiono, Popp, and Te Kanawa. The live Grummer is wonderful, as I recall. And the Lott and Isokowski (live) are also terrific.

            Maybe something is wrong with my pressing of the Della Casa!

            • luvtennis

              Of course, I was referring to the Della Casa recording above.

              I have not listened to the new Anna performances. The Barenboim was not an enjoyable experience.

  • phoenix

    Awhile back someone posted Netreboko singing Solveig’s song from Peer Gynt, which was very well done -- she seemed so relaxed, almost detached, maybe too much so? But it is justifiable simply to sing that piece like a ballad, as she did.
    -- Don’t know very well nor care much for Strauss’ Vier letzte Lieder -- Singing something I love & know, I really could discern a lot more -- has she sung any of these? Respighi’s Il Tramonto, Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder or Altenberg lieder, Dvorák’s Písn? milostné or Cigánské melodie or Biblické písne, Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, Ravel’s Shéhérazade or Deux mélodies hébraiques or Cinq mélodies populaires grecques or Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé, Chausson’s Poème de l’Amour et de la mer, Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis or Proses Lyriques?

    • Bill

      Phoenix -- I love Seefried in Respighi’s Il Tramonto
      (from Lucerne on DGG) and also Jurinac and do not know
      any others at all -- but it is quite different from the
      Richard Strauss VLL as it does not require a high
      soprano though it is a marvelously lyrical piece.
      It requires a sumptuous middle range -- (ie also
      Crespin though she may never have sung it) -- Perhaps others would also offer their favorites and I think Garanca might be marvelous -- I have never
      heard it done live as it happens.

      • phoenix

        I started recording it off internet performances in 2010 -- some of them I didn’t care for the singing but most of them were very good. As usual, the biggest problem turned out to be the internet glitches, which often forced me to give up otherwise superb renditions.
        -- good grief, Bill -- I thought I was the only one who liked it (I’ve read it panned by critics for being too sentimental) but when I went onto utube this afternoon I found pages & pages of it -- with everybody imaginable up there from Janet Baker to Ewa Podle?, some of the lesser famed singers being just as good as the famous ones. As far the ones I have recorded from internet audio myself, my favorite is the Argentinian-Slovak Bernarda Fink in a 2011 performance from Cour de l’Hôtel de Ville en Genève. There is also an ethereal beauty from Polish singer Iwona Sobotka recorded at l’Església de Sant Feliu a Catalunya last year. But there are so many more on utube: two that I particularly liked:
        -- The 1st is a more purely ‘musical’ (adjective meaning found in comments above) version -- and my FAVORITE so far I have found on utube. Antonacci sings it like a lyrical ballad, as if telling the story of something that happened a long, long time ago. Most of the emphasis in this performance is on Resphighi’s melodic/rhythmic dynamics:

        -- The 2nd is Scotto’s version (actually very similar in style to your favorite Seefried performance) with emphasis on expressive communication of the meaning of the text by both soloist & musicians -- she tells the story in greater detail than Antonacci, as if it happened fairly recently & she can’t forget -- she is almost reliving it as she goes along:

        • vilbastarda

          Phoenix, thank you for these. Respighi’s songs are indeed some of the most evocative and poetic, they are among my most favorite songs. And Antonacci truly has a sixth sense of the melody, rhythm, and poetry, almost like she’s singing with composer’s mind. Of the songs that you mentioned, she sang this spring at Alice Tully hall Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis, and Ravel’s Kaddisch. Chansons de Bilitis were spellbinding, but Kaddisch she sang it like she was possessed, I don’t think anybody in the audience breathed while she sang it. Such artistry is rare, and very much treasured. I think she will repeat that program (french art songs, and La voix humaine) next year in May in DC and San Francisco, so if you have a chance, run to see her.

  • Walther von Holzhaufen

    “much better than the Barenboim recording” … damning with faint praise

    • PCally

      I’ve heard many worse four last songs

  • Cicciabella

    The VLL have some lovely moments, especially in the last song. But the Russian songs which follow them, with Barenboim at the piano, are absolutely gorgeous. Based on these VVL I’d say that when Netrebko takes on her first Wagner role she will be sensational, even though at this point it is difficult to make out the words. Her cushiony sound is more Wagnerian than Straussian.

  • Cicciabella

    In the meantime, Netrebko has crashed I’m trying to watch the Summit of the Stars, but get a fatal “504 Gateway-timeout” message.

    • vilbastarda

      Same here, I thought it was just me. Can’t make it work on anything: laptop or ipad app.

      • manou

        Yep -- medici on the frizz.

        • I thought it was just me. Sucks.

        • vilbastarda

          This usually works for me:

          Oh well, will go and vacuum instead…

          • manou

            friTz, friTz!! Sorry

            (My excuse is -- house full of relatives, am hiding to type this!)

            • vilbastarda

              Hahaha, curious where you’re hiding, hope not on the veranda ;)

              And my excuse is New England summer humidity.

              Thanks for the laughs!

            • manou

              They found me…..

    • Rackon

      I guess the combined Trebs/Jonas fandom was too much for the Medici TV servers. :-( But I’m kinda relieved it isn’t my android or their app.

      • Cicciabella

        Not to worry. It’s on ZDF, so an avid YouTuber is bound to record it and upload it in the next few days. Plus, will probably make it available for catch-up.

  • It’s workimng now for me.

    • Cicciabella

      Yay! We have lift-off.

      • I’m not feeling that jacket over Anna’s green dress.

        • Cicciabella

          Maybe it’s the new trend: the slumming it/Gipfel gala look. Spectacular top notes in the Aida aria, though!

          Incredibly, the concert has already been reviewed:

        • Cicciabella

          Ivy, did you like Anna’s silver and black number? I think she looked fabulous in that one.

          • Yeah I loved the silver and black number. But she looked so different in the two outfits that I wondered why she even went with the first one. The second one was so much more flattering.

  • Cicciabella

    So this is Zhidkova: another 10 with a 5+ voice. Or is it nerves? Does she usually sound better than this?

    • phoenix

      Zhidkova was growling again? They should have got Margarita Nekrasova instead, but Nekrasova doesn’t have a glamorous figure
      -- pardon the poor quality cellphone recording:

      • gustave of montreal

        glamourous figure ? this one here looks like a bulldozer

  • antikitschychick

    was finally able to start watching the concert after an hour…well at least I had time to make lunch lol OMG Jonas opened the concert with Celeste Aida and sang the ‘morendo’ ending AND OMG ANNA SANG O PATRIA MIA!!! She snagged a couple of extra breaths here and there (and the beginning was a it tentative) but for the most part she sounded AMAZING!! The high C was fantastic. This should be a great role for her, vocally at least…I do hope she sings it after Norma though as I don’t see how she can keep the flexibility in her voice that is required to sing Norma and also sing this heftier Verdi stuff…well she’s definitely a full-blown spinto now, and her voice captures the original essence of that vocal category (i.e “pushed”) in a good way of course. An Aida with her as Aida, Jonas as Radames and Anita R as Amneris would be ideal I think. Ok going to watch the rest now…

    • Cicciabella

      Just listening to Netrebko’s Io son l’umile ancella. So far Anna is the undisputed star of the evening. You can skip from one number to the other at the bottom of the screen. I’m skipping all the orchestral bits. If I hear another Manon Lescaut Intermezzo at these things, I think I’ll scream.

      • Lohengrin

        Listen to AG´s Adriana! Although I am not a fan of her: she sings the aria with much more heart, knowing what is about the character.
        Anna produced beautiful sound with less expression of the sense; Mimi, Adriana, Aida, Sylva, all the same…..

        • Cicciabella

          Dear Lohengrin, as I’m sure Lady Abbado will agree, Angela Gheorghiu IS the Adriana of her generation, immortalised in David McVicar’s London production with your beloved Jonas and the superhuman Olga Borodina on DVD. Unfortunately, no studio recording was made. I agree that Netrebko’s Adriana could have used with more interpretation, but must disagree that she sings everything the same way. I found her Aida scene very moving, especially the heartache in “mai più, mai più …” But we all know singers, like wine, affect everyone differently.

    • Lohengrin

      Having heard Anja Harteros in Rom Anna Natrebko was disappointing for me. The voice is powerful,ok , but she could not move my heart…..

      • Cicciabella

        Lohengrin, it’s an open-air, miked opera bonanza for the plebs. I think it’s hard to move anyone at these things. And even you have to admit that that high C was the cat’s meow after it licked the dog’s bollocks.

        Just heard Jonas ducking the C in O soave fanciulla, but I won’t hold it against him, since it’s optional.

        • Lohengrin

          You are right, Opera, Konzert and Open Air are different occations. Nevertheless my feeling on AN is often: everything sounds equal and I cannot find a deeper movement. May be it depends on me……….

      • moi

        I was in Rome also, but this ( miked ) performance for me is tecnically (?) more polished and noble.
        We know Harteros ran into trouble in this aria.
        Netrebko’s ease in her singing reminds me more and more of Freni in her heyday ( that lasted long ).
        Hampson is 60 and deals with it.
        I thought the dancing was kind of fun

        • antikitschychick

          oh wow, Hampson is 60? I thought he was in his 50s…that certainly explains a lot. He definitely looks good for a man of 60 though.

    • OMG yes I agree

      • antikitschychick

        Haha can you tell I was excited?? They sang back to back show-stopping arias for sure, even though they were technically show starting arias :-P. I am looking forward to hearing the Aids recording from Rome though. I very much liked Anja Harteros’s rendition. I, like Lohengirn was also very moved.

        Also, this is off topic but hurray for team USA!

  • Cicciabella

    I have to say, this Summit is a lot of fun. While Ildar tried to hit on some duende during Granada, Hampson and Netrebko did a flamenco dance together. Ildar’s La calunnia was great, though.

    Now Zhidkova as a Bambi-eyed Carmen…

    • antikitschychick

      “Now Zhidkova as a Bambi-eyed Carmen” ROFLMAO…

      Just finished watching the whole concert and then I re-watched “Celeste Aida” and “O Patria Mia”. Both were fantastic, albeit there were a lot of vowel modifications coming from Jonas…the “Ce” in “Celeste” sounded like a French vowel. Other than that his phrasing was great, as were his high notes and he looked very handsome as always.

      That O Patria Mia was for the ages. Not only was the singing gorgeous but the interpretation was great. Every phrase was sung tenderly yet with panache and gusto and a real sense of the vocal line. But, its one thing to sing that aria fresh voiced with help from a mic and another to sing it after two Acts at the Met so we shall see…what a shame we have to wait 3 years until she sings the entire role.

      As for the rest, I really respect Thomas Hampson and you gotta give him credit for jumping in at the last minute; not to mention he is handsome and a good musician but he is way past his prime. Had to skip his first and last solo numbers, although I think he fared better in the duet with Jonas and I really enjoyed the Cole Porter selection. Ildar sounded great and looked very sexy in that tailored black suit and sporting that 5 o’clock shadow (me like :-P)…I did think he sang a bit too loud and forcefully at times, but the orchestra was also playing very loudly throughout. I also really enjoyed Granada despite it being set in a really low key. His Spanish was on point.

      As for Ms. Zhidkova…the less said the better…

      I didn’t really like the Barcarolle either. The voices did not blend well and there was no spark. I prefer that aria sung by lighter and brighter voices, whereas AN sounded kind of muffled and breathy; the mics could have contributed to that as well though…but its a popular number and the audience usually likes it so I get why they included it.

      loved how they all danced to each other’s arias, that was a hoot, oh and props to Jonas for being such a gentleman during O soave fanciulla when AN ran out of steam on the high C at the end. He, not missing a beat, immediately stopped singing and gave her a big smooch to end the aria :cool: lol that was cute.

      I actually did like the jacket AN was wearing in the beginning, except one of the brown straps was untied and just hanging there looking kind of messy. But her makeup was lovely and she was very expressive, especially with her eyes. A lot of times singers are kind of zoned out during a performance and its noticeable, but she is always ‘present’ and enjoying the moment and she just lures you in. I wanna hear In Questa Reggia next :-D.

      • Cicciabella

        The dancing was quite a bonus, AKC! Best dancer: Hampson. Worst dancer: Kaufmann. I’m married to a goofy dancer myself, so I make the judgement with the greatest affection.

        Hampson was a good sport, so no comments on his singing, I think Kaufmann’s piano in the Celeste Aida misfired this time. It went into falsetto, but sometimes it doesn’t, so good for him for taking the risk and not baling out by increasing the volume. I liked his Dein is mein ganzes Herz, although it was rather loud throughout, but very exciting. Also that old chestnut, Nessun Dorma: he blasted that B like there’s no tomorrow. Let’s face it, “Tonight” was a bit a of ten-car pile-up, but it was all in good fun.

        • antikitschychick

          Completely agree, lots of off beat dancing and clapping…makes you realize they all definitely chose the right profession lol well except for AN, she can actually twirl pretty well…I thought Hampson’s back and forth swaying during (I forget which number) was hilarious but he redeemed himself with some lovely waltzing during Dein ist Mein Ganzes Herz with AN :-).

          ”Tonight would have been fabulous if it’d been sung by just AN and herr Jonas…I get they wanted to include everyone in the fun but Ms. Thang did not know the words…and you couldn’t really hear Ildar over Hampson’s ahem, singing. Yes it was a hammy performance but I much prefer hearing it sung in operatic fashion with full-bodied voices rather than the traditional “broadway” style. Just a personal preference of mine. Forgot to add that I loved AN’s nail polish <3.

      • luvtennis

        Welllll, I just listened to Anna’s performance that La Cieca appended to the other thread (are they the same performance?)

        I have the following thoughts -- first this performance is a lot like Anna’s other “first” performances of tough music -- some really good stuff, some really questionable stuff, and some sloppy (sounding at least) stuff.

        The first thing that stands out to me is that the timbre is very good for the role -- dark but malleable in the middle and bright on top. But Anna’s tendency to sound throaty -- especially when she is still getting music into her, well throat -- is very evident on the recording. I don’t think that sound goes well with line of the aria. It also means that some of the turns are sloppy or just not there.

        Balanced against that is a longer breath than I would have expected (really important to me in this aria of all arias) and she understands what she is singing in a big way.

        Finally, she manages the ascent to high c very well and sings the note itself confidently. I think in the long run -- assuming good fortune -- that she will improve on most of the things that don’t work in this early performance. Of course, this is a dangerous role and a bad experience in the early performances might mean that she drops the role before getting it into her voice. I think that is not too likely though; Anna is pretty fearless.

        • Camille

          Well, luv, you’ve saved me time and effort as you’ve essentially written down more or less my observations. There were excellent things coupled with a couple bad bobbles—forgetting words and breathing in the middle of the word which by now ai’d hoped would never occur again.

          The color and the texture of the voice sound very adapted to this music and it seems to come naturally enough but I hope it wiuld get sung through enough before she ever performs it. She seems to have a real feeling for the text and its expression here. Lots of little things here and there to improve but overall I sigh a big relief that she is singing this far more appropriate role for her at this point. And besides which, after some of the fugly Aïdas I have seen, it would be refreshing to see a stage figure who corresponds more than less to Radames’ apostrophe starting with “Celeste”. It might make the entire trama a whole lot more plausible for me.

          • luvtennis

            Please take a listen to the 57 performance by Lee that I posted on another thread (I think?) Both very early performances, but the performance is world’s different in terms of polish (it is the finest version in many respects top to bottom that I can think of.)

            Price, of course, had the benefit of studying the role with von Karajan. And I just sense that singers of that time had so much more TIME to focus on the learning the roles and the music. It’s like certain kinds of craftsmanship -- the modern role just has too many distractions for that sort of slow careful, time-consuming preparation.

            Heck, TV used to go OFF at 2 am. Now you can literally live 24 hours a day without resting.

            So many distractions for modern artists.

            • luvtennis

              The modern WORLD not role.

              And please, I am not indulging in nostalgia. Just observing phenomena. :-)

          • luvtennis

            Crazy how rough this role is on sopranos, isn’t it. Can you think of another role that has had so many high-profile disasters from otherwise great (or at least good) singers?

            Harteros -- who is an amazing technician had difficulties in the aria. I hope that doesn’t deter her from singing the role in the future. It would be wonderful to have 3 first rate Aidas singing the role at the same time in the same universe.

            Lee can finally put away her costume -- (although as she once said to Adler at the SFO -- “the old things do tend to hang on…”)

            • Camille

              luvtennis, ACHTUNG!!!

              Well, by some strange alchemy, today, while going through a ton of old music and souvenirs and memorabilia, I found a program of the San Francisco Opera from the summer of 1984 when your girl was singing Aïda there. Now, I had the misfortune of hearing Stevka Efstatieva instead — I think Leontyne’s were all sold out and I was so busy that summer I hadn’t the time, or whatever —-- anyway, I had NO idea this program lurked at the bottom of a pile and wondered if you would like it as souvenir as there are several lovely pictures of Miss Price, and it is clearly ALL about her.

              And guess who sang the High Priestess? One Dolora Zajic (sic)! An Adler Fellow or some such thing at the time. Further had utterly no recollection whatsoever of having heard Franco Bonisolli. God, how time flies.

              If you would like the program, just drop a line to Madame Cieca and I’d gladly forward it to you, no thanks necessary nor strings attached nor anything icky like that. I have a program for kashania that I’m giving him (not yet, I still like to read it), so you are not the only one.

              Anyway, I am pretty darn mad I got the vanilla Aïda that summer instead of the 70% cacao one which was 100% great.


        • antikitschychick

          Hey Luv :-) Yes there were some flaws, and those who prefer a more italianate rendition would have reason to be disappointed, but her enunciation was still good as were most of the low notes…plus, the tessitura, of this aria at least, sits well in her voice and really brings out the bloom in her upper register. I personally have grown to love her throatiness albeit it’s an acquired taste, but this repertoire is one that especially requires a full bodied sound. It’s also a real treat getting to hear how well her voice responds to what she wants it to do, though she certainly took her time to make sure all the notes landed in their proper place. Also yes the video I posted is the same performance as the audio clip Cieca posted in the other thread.

  • Poor Anna, now the same rank as me