BWW Review: Opera Superstar ANNA NETREBKO Dazzles in Canadian Debut
The lights dim. The crowd is silent, in anticipation. Finally - the reigning queen of opera has come to Canada.
Anna Netrebko performed to an adoring sold-out audience at Toronto's Four Seasons Centre on Tuesday evening. Netrebko was joined by husband and Azerbaijani tenor, Yusif Eyvazov and renowned Russian baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Led by Maestro Jader Bignamini, the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra brilliantly accompanied the "Trio Magnifico" through Verdi, Puccini, Tchaikovsky and more. Presented by Show One Productions, the evening was a remarkable presentation of some of opera's greatest hits, sung by three of opera's brightest stars.
Netrebko's rise to fame is a real-life Cinderella story. Recognized while working as a janitor at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, conductor Valery Gergiev began mentoring the young soprano, propelling her to stardom. In 2002, Netrebko seduced American audiences, making her Metropolitan Opera debut in Prokofiev's War and Peace. With the initiation of the Met's Live in HD series, the soprano was in the right place (at the right time) to achieve widespread fame. Netrebko has performed in every season of the series, for the past eleven years - her performances reached new audiences, and inspired a new generation of singers (I happen to be one of them).
The COC Orchestra set the mood for the evening with a touching "Sinfonia" from Verdi's La Forza del destino. Hvorostovsky sang first. It was an emotional experience watching him perform, surrounded by his family in the front row. Hvorostovsky announced in 2015 that he was battling a brain tumour and would be subsequently withdrawing from live performances, citing the physical difficulties in performing fully-staged operas. Hvorostovsky seemed slightly unbalanced during the concert, walking with a slight limp and singing with a voice that has noticeably changed. Still - it was an incredible opportunity to hear one of opera's living legends, perhaps the world's greatest baritone - in person. The audience, extremely moved by his performance, demanded an encore at the end of the night.
The diva did not disappoint. Netrebko was dazzling, commanding the entire stage - much to the dismay of the lighting operator. She was most impressive while singing in her native tongue, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin still fresh in her voice from a recent turn as Tatyana at the Met. Her singing had depth as it carried effortlessly - showcasing the multitude of colours in her celebrated voice. Netrebko is a phenomenal artist, one that reels you in with every note that escapes her lips. Her commitment to emotional communication while performing technically complex music is one of the reasons she is such a highly-regarded star.
The surprise of the evening was the immensely talented, Yusif Eyvazov. His voice was satisfyingly piercing - soaring over the orchestra with incredible power. Eyvazov exceeded every expectation I had walking into the concert. His "E lucevan le stelle" was met with thunderous applause, perhaps the most enthusiastic applause of the evening. We can forgive the poor diction in the Lehar duet ("Tu che m'hai preso il cuor"), as it was magical to witness the musical chemistry of the husband and wife duo.
It was an incredible evening for opera in Toronto. Svetlana Dvoretsky, executive producer of Show One Productions, stated at the beginning of the evening that she hopes that they (Netrebko and Eyvazov) will love Canada as much as we do. Based on the warm Canadian welcome, I have a feeling they'll be returning soon.
Netrebko and Eyvazov will perform on April 30, 2017 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary, AB. If there are still tickets, you'll want to purchase them now. Visit www.calgaryopera.com for more information.
(If you're new to opera and have no idea where to start, Anna Netrebko is the perfect introduction. I recommend the 2005 Salzburg Festival production of Verdi's La Traviata.)
Photo Credit: Vladimir Kevorkov, courtesy of Show One Productions