Verdi: Arias from Macbeth, Giovanna d'Arco, I vespri siciliani, Don Carlo and Il Trovatore
This CD recording marks Anna Netrebko’s move, at least as a recording artist, into the centre of the Verdi repertoire. Such a development is usually associated with a larger and more mature voice and, since the Russian soprano had recently entered her forties when the disc was recorded, it seems timely. The deluxe edition of this album is ultra-lavishly packaged, with a bonus DVD offering extracts from nine operas, eight of them staged, and the booklet including 50 pages of colour photos.
In many ways, Netrebko justifies her decision to tackle Verdi. She provides singing of sufficient amplitude and power to encompass the needs of Elisabeth de Valois in Don Carlo (‘Tu che le vanità’, like the extracts from I vespri siciliani, is sung in Italian translation rather than the original French) as well as Leonora in Il trovatore. She is at her most expressive and skilled as Leonora, her tone firm and fleshy, her line nicely shaped and her genuine trill coming in useful. Tenor Rolando Villazón sketches in Manrico in the Miserere.
It’s in creating a fully convincing character that the deficiency chiefly lies – perhaps not surprisingly in roles not yet attempted on stage. Lady Macbeth starts well with an understated, semi-whispered letter-reading, and then moves into a different acoustic for the singing. The scale is right but the energy generalised and the words need cleaner definition. Similar faults limit the impact of the other scenes from this opera, as well as those from the early Giovanna d’Arco and I vespri siciliani, and coloratura can be weak. But at best it’s a fine beginning, if not quite the territory-conquering gesture one might have hoped for.