© Dario Acosta / provided by the Met Press Department
Singer: Anna Yuryevna Netrebko
(Анна Юрьевна Нетребко)
Fach: Full lyric soprano
Voice characteristics: both high and deep, lustrous and velvety
Moniker: "La Bellissima"
Web site: www.annanetrebko.com
(Adina), Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, season opening night this past Monday September 24, and next performances on September 27, October 1, 5, 10, 13, 2012, and back in January 30, 2013, February 2, 6, and 9. Tickets [here
] and our review of the opening night is [here
© Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera
(Mimi), Teatro alla Scala, Milan, October 19 and 22, 2012. Tickets [here
Born in Krasnodar, Russia - dual citizen of Russia and Austria
Lives in Vienna with secondary residences in Salzburg and New York City
Married to Erwin Schrott, bass-baritone
Child: son Tiago Aruã Schrott
2008 Musician of the Year (Musical America)
Reigning Diva of the 21st Century (Associated Press)
Top 100 World Personalities (Time Magazine)
State Prize, Russian Federation
Ambassador, SOS Children's Village
Operatic Debut at the Mariinsky Theater as Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), mentored by maestro Valery Gergiev
Amina, Rosina, Pamina, and Lucia with the Kirov Opera
Queen of the Night in Riga
Russian repertoire as Lyudmila, Natasha, Louisa, Marfa
Bel Canto and Romantic repertoires as Gilda, Mimi, Giulietta, Elvira
Major successes as Natasha (Met debut in 2002); Donna Anna in Salzburg and Covent Garden; Violetta in Munich, Salzburg, and Covent Garden; Giulietta at Covent Garden and Paris; Juliette at the Met; Manon in Berlin; Lucia at the Met; Norina at the Met; Anna Bolena in Vienna, at the Met, and at La Scalla, and Manon at the Met in April 2012.
CD Albums and concert DVDs:
· Opera Arias
· Sempre Libera
· Russian Album
· In the Still of Night
· The Mozart album
· La nozze di Figaro - Highlights
· Rossini: Stabat Mater
· Prima donna - First ladies of opera
· Puccini gold
· Puccini: La Boheme (Soundtrack Highlights)]
· Violeta: arias & duets from Verdi's La Traviata
· Stabat Mater - A Tribute to Pergolesi
· The Berlin Concert - Live from the Waldbühne
· The opera gala - Live from Baden-Baden
· Gala concert from St. Petersburg
· The woman - The voice
· A Mozart gala from Salzburg
Complete operas on DVD:
Ruslan and Lyudmila
Bethrotal in a Monastery
Le Nozze di Figaro
Lucia di Lammermoor
Complete operas on CD:
Ruslan and Lyudmila
The Love for Three Oranges
Bethrotal in a Monastery
Le Nozze di Figaro
I Capuleti e i Montecchi
© Opera Lively - Disclaimer: this exclusive interview is copyrighted by Opera Lively with all rights reserved, and is not to be reproduced without express authorization. Brief excerpts can be used after consultation (use the Contact Us form) as long as proper credit and a link to the full interview on Opera Lively are provided. Links to the interview can be posted without authorization.
The Exclusive Opera Lively In-Person Interview with Anna Netrebko
This is the second Opera Lively exclusive interview with Anna Netrebko [Opera Lively interview # 58]. When we launched our site some ten months ago, she granted us a very short interview with four brief answers to our questions [read it (here
)], and I had the pleasure of meeting her in person backstage at the Met. We are grateful for that one, but we craved a more substantial talk, and this time Anna was generous enough to grant us a longer chunk of her busy schedule, for an in-person interview.
I met Anna Netrebko in the plush rooms of the Metropolitan Opera House Press Department. After some nervous expectation – after all, I’d be talking to a singer I’ve intensely admired for the last several years, and I was fully aware that I had only half an hour to do the interview and had to rush to the airport right after the end, leaving little room for errors such as delays or cancellations – it was with relief that I saw her entering the room very punctually, with a big smile. Being perceptive enough to feel my trepidation and my preoccupation with the limited time we had at our disposal, Anna was very calm and reassuring, saying right away “no, no, relax, we have time, I’ll be doing my best to answer all the questions you’ll be willing to ask.”
I must say, this was one of my most pleasant interviews to date. Talking to Anna is a striking experience. First of all, she is much prettier in person than on stage or in pictures (and that is saying a lot since she always looks gorgeous on stage!), thanks to the richness of her facial expression. Anna is intense, vivacious, and simply adorable. Her charming gesticulation and the little faces that she makes are precious, and result in a radiant presence that lightens up the room. She is very good at expressing emotions, such as her interest for the cause of disadvantaged or sick children, her admiration for her husband, her enthusiasm for her art, and her longing for more time to spend with family and friends in her native Russia. When she talks about these topics, one can read on her face the true feelings that she places behind these thoughts. Anna appears to be a very genuine person. Paradoxically and given her status of the most celebrated soprano of her generation, she also seems to be almost humble. Well, she does acknowledge how good she is – she appears self-confident and assertive – but never in an arrogant way.
Anna has just turned 41 on September 18, but she looks and talks like a much younger woman, appearing girlie (in the good sense) and full of enthusiasm for life. She is a bundle of energy and her smile is contagious. And then, she projects a very friendly, down-to-earth attitude, which reveals to the interlocutor the fact that she is a very *good* person, interested in helping others and in doing well what she does, and enjoying the love and recognition that she gets in exchange for her talent and her personal qualities.
I’ve interviewed many of her colleagues in the recent past, and have noticed the immense respect they have for her professionalism and positive attitude. After talking to her relatively at length for this interview, I can understand and share the feeling. It is a pity that I can only convey to you - our readers - the written text, which doesn’t do justice to this incredible personal charm that she possesses. You’d only get a glimpse of it if we had a video interview. I did try to remedy this limitation by providing a few descriptions of her emotional tone here and there, between brackets.
Opera Lively - Thank you for doing this, Anna. We at Opera Lively are big fans of yours and we feel very honored that you are granting us this in-person interview. You know, we proposed your nickname of “La Bellissima” and we hope it is catching on.
Anna Netrebko – Aw, thank you so much! [very pleased]
OL – Since we’ve just seen you in L’Elisir d’Amore two days ago, let’s start by talking about Bel Canto. How do you feel about it? Do you still enjoy doing Bel Canto while your career is clearly evolving in another direction?
AN – I’m singing Bel Canto but not only Bel Canto. I always try to embrace different ranges of opera. There are a lot of French operas in my repertoire. Bel Canto is only part of it, and I’ve been moving to other styles, but I still love to sing it. I think it is beautiful, and it is good for the voice. It’s very enjoyable, of course.
OL - In November 2010 you gave an interview saying that the way you saw your career and voice evolving, you’d like to move from girls to queens, and wanted to sing Anna Bolena. Check, it’s happened already. You also said you saw yourself moving on to Puccini’s Manon Lescault, Leonora in Il Trovatore, and Elsa in Lohengrin. Well, according to rumors we’ve heard, you’re getting your wishes met, since apparently you’re supposed to sing Puccini’s Manon Lescault in Munich in 2014, the role of Leonora in Berlin in 2014, and that of Elsa in Dresden in 2015. Good for you! But then, the question is, what is next? Once you get these desired roles under your belt, where are you going?
AN – Yes, right, I’ll be doing those. But where I am going next, sincerely, I don’t care. [laughs] I have too many things to work on right now, too many interesting roles, and for now I’m set. I don’t know what will come next. [laughs]
OL - You’ve included some operetta arias in your concerts, and one of your recordings, “Souvenirs,” contains several selections from this genre. Do you think you would like to take part in a fully staged operetta performance? For example, if a major house offered you the role of Hanna Glawari or Rosalinde in new productions of The Merry Widow or Die Fledermaus, would you give serious consideration to accepting?
AN – Hm, hm, yes, I’ll say that I have always loved operetta. [looks passionate] I wanted to be an operetta singer before I fell in love with opera. I like the genre, it’s always very happy and beautiful, with the dancing… still, the libretti need to get a little bit smarter, no? [laughs] But the rest of it, yes! I actually have plans... We are planning to do the role of Sylva, in Die Csárdásfürstin
… with very, very big people. It will be with a great conductor; we’ll record it, and will make a movie of it. I’m very much looking forward to that. We’ve been in touch with Yvonne Kálmán, the daughter of Imre Kálmán, and we are getting into it. It’s a wonderful thing [looks dreamy]. The libretto needs to be updated to get more modern jokes because it’s very old-fashioned. But the music itself is beautiful and gorgeous, and with the right production and beautiful costumes it can be very spectacular.
OL – Oh, that’s nice, I didn’t know you had this predilection for operetta, and it does seem like a natural fit for your acting skills. Back to your album - “Souvenirs” - you also included several Russian selections, like two songs by Rimsky-Korsakov. Earlier in your career, you presented concerts of art songs by Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, and Rimsky-Korsakov; and in 2009, a concert featuring some of Tchaikovsky’s songs. It seems obvious and natural that the music of your homeland speaks dearly to your heart. Would you like to develop a specialized Russian art song repertory for the concert circuit?
AN – Ah, Russian music, I’m not performing it that much because my voice is going in a different direction. Only lately, when my voice started to become a little more mature, I was able to start singing Tchaikovsky, because before it was impossible, it was too light. For Rimsky-Korsakov my voice is starting to become too heavy, you have to have a lighter voice to sing Rimsky-Korsakov. For the operas, I think it’s way too late… [longing look]. For the songs, it’s fine, I’m performing them, and I love them very much. Of course I love this music; it’s very close to my heart. It’s my hope, it’s my home music, I grew up with that.
OL – There is a very rich Russian operatic tradition, and yet much of it isn’t performed very often in Western Europe or North America. I was screening the schedules for the 103 main opera companies in the United States for the 2012-2013 season; and out of 381 productions of 178 operas, do you know how many productions of Russian operas? One!
AN – Oh, wow!
OL – Yes, there was only one Eugene Onegin, nothing else, unlike some recent years, so this repertory seems to be going backward over here! Do you see yourself becoming an advocate for this repertory, much as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland were advocates for the neglected Bel Canto repertory?
AN – I don’t think so. I’m not that ambitious. I don’t see myself as having a mission. I just love to perform the roles that I’ve been performing. I think I do them all differently from everybody else. You love it or you hate it, but it’s very different. But I don’t have any intention of advocating for any operas.
OL - Last year, you renewed your exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon. If you are at a liberty to say, can you tell us about any new projects you are working on with them, or any new CDs with you that we can soon look forward to?
AN – Yes. Regarding recordings, the answer is very simple. I haven’t recorded too many CDs because I was not ready. When you do something, you need to be very well prepared and to present something very special. I’m not that artist who records every year. Also because I’m very busy performing on stage and in concerts. But my next CD is almost done; it’s been almost entirely recorded. It’s going to be out next year, and it is Verdi! [brightens up]
OL – Great, it will coincide with Verdi’s bicentennial, then!
AN – Yes! It was recorded in Turin, with the Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino, and Gianandrea Noseda. It includes arias from Il Trovatore, Don Carlo, Macbeth, Giovanna d’Arco, La Forza del Destino
, and I Vespri Siciliani
. And the duet from Otello
! It’s with the wonderful Johan Botha. We have to still record this last track in December.
OL – I look forward to it!
AN – It will be a big thing! That was a big move for me! [laughs excitedly]
OL - In addition to your very busy singing career and your family life with your lovely husband and son, you are also an ambassador for an SOS Children’s Village in Austria and a sponsor for another village in Russia. We’ve noticed that you are very much involved with charity for children, like when you wanted the proceedings from photo shooting sections when Tiago was born, to go to children-related charities. Please tell us more about this cause that seems to occupy a big place in your heart.
AN – [Turns serious] It’s more than just being an ambassador now. Together with my husband, we’ve opened a foundation. It’s official now. It took us over a year, because of all the papers. I’m really excited. We had never expected that it would be that hard, but now it’s open, there is a website, and for now it includes four organizations. SOS Children’s Village is now not only in Austria but all over the world, over a hundred of them. It’s a wonderful organization. I’ve been there and they are very serious. And then one of the organizations is a hospital for children in Austria, and another one is a very big institute for cerebral palsy in Saint Petersburg and they also work in the rest of Europe. It’s amazing. We did a promotional film for them in July, they’re wonderful. And finally the fourth one is a hospital for children in Valencia. [with a passionate look] So for now we are helping four organizations, and we’ve already started to work, and it is going very well! [looks proud]
OL – Great, that’s admirable! On another note, in two years, the Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, which is near your hometown of Krasnodar. You will be a guest artist at either the opening or closing ceremonies. The Olympic Games are always such a special event, and you must be looking forward to taking part in all of that excitement. Any comments about your expectations?
AN – Yes, of course, I’m very excited about that and very proud for Russia! I’ll be over there, of course! I’ll be performing, we’ll all have a very fine time!
OL – Have you ever been back to Krasnodar to perform?
AN – [makes a sad face] We never have time…
OL – Would you love to sing for your old friends and family there?
AN – Yes, I would, but it is very hard because for that you would have to organize a tour. They don’t have a proper orchestra there. We’d have to go there with the whole Mariinski. But when the Mariinski tours, I’m always here! They usually tour in September, and I really cannot be there this time of the year. I’ve been there many years ago, only once. I don’t have the time [sighs, with longing]. See, I’m here now, then it’s La Scala, then I finally have a month off, I’m so happy about that! But during that month I’ll have to prepare new repertoire. [a little unhappy / tired look]
OL – What about South America, with Erwin who is from Uruguay?
AN – Yes, yes, it’s coming! [looks excited again] We are planning to have a concert there, maybe in Argentina. There is a possibility of a tour in South America next summer. But it hasn’t been confirmed yet. I’ll be singing in Mexico as well. So it’s there, and I’m very happy about it because I’ve never performed in South America. I’ve been to Mexico once.
OL – Oh, if you are going on tour to South America, I’ll go too, to see you there!
AN – Yes! [happily] But then we’ll have to negotiate with Erwin, because he has this kick-out tango project, and I said, “Erwin, if you are going to sing tango, then what will I be doing there with my opera?” [laughs, looks amused].
OL – Yes, I loved his “Rojo Tango” CD with Argentinean music and two Brazilian songs as well.
AN – Yes, they did a new arrangement, it is beautiful, and he is very excited about it. [with admiration]
OL - Let’s switch a bit to Anna the person, beyond the singer, even though it is of course impossible to separate the two. We get from other interviews that you don’t really enjoy your enormous fame with all that it entails such as intrusive paparazzi, and you crave some anonymity which you can get when you are in large foreign cities as opposed to your home in Austria where you have the status of major celebrity. Are you very tired of it all? Would you rather make it all stop (such as, moving away from it all to some more remote location where nobody knows you)? Or do you take it as the price to pay in order to do what you love to do, that is, perform gorgeous music for your public in the major opera houses of the world?
AN – Yes… but you know, I never say “oh, I’m so tired of my fame!” [makes a funny face] I was never that dramatic. I love the fact that people love me. It’s amazing; it’s what I’m working for.[dreamy] I don’t think that people bother me too much; no, I wouldn’t say so. I’m not a pop star. Sometimes it gets a little bit wild, in some places – like for example when I was pregnant in Salzburg. That year was a little bit crazy. Paparazzi were around me all the time. But most of the time, I don’t think I get bothered, I’m actually very happy with it all. People recognize me in the streets, even here in New York which is very surprising [giggles, pleased]. But no, mostly it’s fine. Would I want to be a really mega-crazy star? [broad gesticulation] I’d say, no. I think I have just the perfect amount of fame, and this is just enough, thank you. [laughs] The right measure! [looks content]
OL -You’ve been asked over and over about your beginnings, let’s not go there. You’ve been asked extensively about your famous roles that are clearly for you in the past now, like the red dress Violetta in Salzburg, let’s not go there either (although we loved it!!!).
AN – Hm, hm, let’s not [smiles].
OL - We’re more interested in the future, and in the human aspects of the toll a singing career takes on someone’s life. For how long do you want to keep going? Will it be for as long as possible, or will you want to cut it all off at some point and go enjoy yourself in other ways, without the obligation of being on the road all the time, often far from your husband and child?
AN – [Laughs] Well, no, I think it is still too early to answer this question. I’m still going, and I’ll do it for as long as I can perform well. For sure, I’ll be the first one to notice, if something goes wrong with my voice. And there are people around me who will tell me – “Anna, this is not going well.” When this happens, I’ll definitely stop. I don’t want to be somebody who is trying to do what she was once very good at doing, and now, not anymore. [looks assertive, decided]
OL - So, once you stop, then what you’ll be doing? Will it still be related to music?
AN – [Thoughtful] I don’t know… I’m definitely not going to be a voice teacher. Absolutely not. It’s very hard to say. I’m a very active person. I like to do things. I definitely cannot just sit at home and be a housewife and have a calm life. I need some activity and I’ll find something. I don’t know what it will be, though. We’ll see.
OL -Hey, while these last topics were interesting for us in terms of human dimension, let’s not make of this interview something too gloomy. Let’s switch to the girlie Anna – which as much as you’ve been growing into the queenly roles in opera and the mother role in real life, we’re sure remains alive and well inside you, so vivacious you are. So, fashion: you’re always fabulously dressed.
AN – Thank you! [emphatically; seems truly pleased about it].
OL - Who are your favorite designers?
AN – Hm… I *love* fashion! I like classical fashion but I like as well extreme and funky stuff. I’ve changed my style a little bit. I think now I dress in a little less edgy style, compared to what I used to like before. I used to like this crazy bohemian style sometimes, you know, very weird – designers like Betsey Johnson, Anna Sui, young and always colorful. But now I prefer something classier, because it suits me right now. In terms of favorite designers, to tell you the truth, I have all of them now in my closet! [she says it always whispering, with a little guilty, conspiratorial and girlie look, then giggles]. Whatever suits me, whatever can fit me is there. But I like to change my clothes; I like to change the colors. I like beautiful fabric, and comfortable, of course.
OL - Other than singing, raising Tiago, and being a good partner for Erwin, what do you love to do in life, Anna?
AN – [very animated] What do I like do it in life… I like life, generally. I love to live. [laughs] I’m not religious, therefore I don’t believe in life after death. I’m really embracing what I have right now. I wish my life will be a thousand years long [laughs] so I can do many things and really enjoy them. I wish I’ll have a long life, have a bit more time. I enjoy normal things that people do. I like going to movies but not very often because I don’t have time. I attend concerts and performances of opera. I go to the theater and go out for dinners, and I also cook at home.
OL - We hear that you’re a good cook!
AN – I can cook! I’m not as good as my husband. When he cooks, he is really amazing! [expresses adoration] But I can cook and I do it very easily. [looks pleased with herself]. I also like traveling, and when I travel I make sure I go to the museums and the parks. I just enjoy life. [charming, vivacious expression]
OL - But with your busy life, are you able to have a good circle of friends, and have them over for dinner and all? Do you get together with friends from the operatic environment? Or do you rather befriend people from other walks of life?
AN – Well, I’ll say that the people I work with now, they are not really my friends. They are pals, but my real friends are from Krasnodar. They are from Russia. They are those with whom I grew up. They are not musicians. They are just normal, lovely people.
OL – Let’s talk about your son. He is the child of two great singers. Do you take care of introducing him to opera, bringing him to performances so that he sees them from the side wings?
AN – [Lightens up] He has been already several times to the opera in the wings, but for now he is still very little, he cannot behave [laughs]. I think he likes music very much, he is very interested. For now, he is especially interested in the instruments of the orchestra. Sometimes he goes to the pit, he sees the musicians, and they sometimes show him the instruments. Here at the Met they are very generous, they show him the drums, and they show him the violins… He is very interested in it all. If he wants to listen to the music, he is very welcome to.
OL - If you were to describe yourself as a person, in terms of your personality and main characteristics, what would you say?
AN – It looks like I’m very light and easy to be with. But I can also be complicated… [girlie laughs], I have some tough strings hidden inside.
OL – I don’t think you engage in a lot of diva behavior…
AN – Diva behavior? No, no, no! [with a devilish smile:] Well, only if I need to! [laughs hard]. No, seriously, only if there is something that is not going right, in my work. If there is something I don’t agree with, then I get to – crreeek
[makes a crushing noise and a crushing gesture with her hands] and then, hm, hm [makes a severe noise and facial expression] I make people be a bit shaken up. But it is fine, it’s not diva behavior; I do it for the sake of art.
OL – I think that’s about what we had for today, Anna. Thank you so much!
AN – No, thank *you*! You know, I saw your web site, it is nice! Although I’m not much of a computer person.
OL – You don’t do iPad, iPhone, and the such?
AN – Not at all. I don’t deal with any of that. But you know? My son, even though he’s so little, is already good at that. [looks proud]
OL – I know, it’s amazing how the new generation is growing up with all the computer skills, isn’t it?
AN – It is!
OL – Are pictures allowed? I’d like a personal souvenir, not for publication, just for me to remember this occasion.
AN – [claps, excitedly] Yes, let’s do pictures! Come here, outside in the corridor there is a pretty spot, we’ll look better there! [We go to the corridor where there is a beautiful display of memorabilia of Verdi operas at the Met, and she says, taking charge:] Let’s do it from the side, at an angle. [Her agent shoots a couple of pictures with my camera – she asks to see them, and concludes:] I like this one! Do you?
OL – I do too! Thank you, Anna, and I wish you good luck in your next projects.
AN – I wish you the same. Ciao!
That’s it, then. I left the Met very pleased, feeling privileged for having had this opportunity of interviewing lovely Anna, and for sharing the result with you all here at Opera Lively.
If by any chance, reader, you aren't acquainted with Anna Netrebko's artistry (a very unlikely possibility), here is a sample of her outstanding singing, in some very difficult - and very well executed - passages of Il Trovatore -
(bonus: Jonas Kaufmann joins her in the second half of the clip):
This is arguably my favorite video clip with Anna - just like in the above interview, it highlights her joyful energy and adorable personality (see what happens at 2:25, and then at 3:40!):
If you came to this page through a link from another site, please consider exploring our other exclusive interviews (Joyce DiDonato's, Anna Caterina Antonacci's, Luca Pisaroni's, Thomas Hampson's, Piotr Beczala's, scholar Dr. Philip Gossett's, veteran singer Sylvia Sass', and stage director Thaddeus Strassberger's are especially good, among many other artists - about 60), news, and articles by clicking on the Articles tab above and using the Section Widget on the top left of the page; our very active discussion Forum (of course, by clicking on the Forum tab - and please notice that over there we also have an area with content in Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese), and our Wordpress area where we place our educational content, accessible at www.operalively.com/learn - and then, if you like what you see, consider registering as a member so that you can post your own comments (it's entirely free and will remain so) and please use our social media share buttons to "like" our site and "tweet" about it to your opera-loving friends. Thank you for visiting Opera Lively!
Bookmark our site and come back for more - several new and exciting interviews are always coming to Opera Lively - next is smashing young tenor Saimir Pirgu (completed, under transcription).