Anna Netrebko & Rolando Villazon - Duets (2007) [FLAC]
Format: FLAC (Compressed lossless audio)
**Cover art and scans of the booklet included.
Release Date: 09/11/2007
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Catalog #: 000884502
Spars Code: n/a
Composer: Giacomo Puccini, Gaetano Donizetti, Giuseppe Verdi, Charles Gounod, Georges Bizet, Jules Massenet, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Federico Moreno-Torroba
Performers: Rolando Villaz≤n, Anna Netrebko, Nadine Weissmann, Nicola Luisotti
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Orchestra/Ensemble: Dresden Staatskapelle
Rolando Villaz≤n and Anna Netrebko, opera's "golden couple" (or is it "dream team?"), have just released their first CD of duets. Oddly, in the DVDs in which they've co-starred--L'elisir d'amore and La traviata--their moments together, while splendid in every way, are not as memorable as their solos. For example, you're likely to recall "Di miei bollenti spiriti" and "Addio del passato" with greater fondness than the first and last act duets, and similarly, their solos (and Villaz≤n's duet with Dulcamara) are the high points of L'elisir.
When you think of Caballé and Carreras, early in their careers, or Callas and di Stefano (not to mention Sutherland and Horne), you think of great collaborations. With Netrebko and Villazon, their voices do not particularly complement one another's; they're both just superb artists, utterly in their prime, with healthy, attractive voices and they sing well together. But the sum is precisely the equal of the parts.
That having been said, this CD gives great pleasure. It begins lusciously with the duet that closes the first act of BohΦme. Both singers are in rapturous voice, their phrasing sensitive and sincere. When it comes time for Mimi to respond with "Io t'amo" the tempo slows to a virtual crawl (throughout, the singers seem to be leading the conductor, Nicola Luisotti, but it's not such a bad thing). It's odd but effective and allows the pair to linger on their off-stage high C. There are split seconds of tiny pitch variations when they're on the same note; it sounds as if Netrebko is a hair sharp--but the non-sharp singer tends to take the blame. Overall, it's a magical performance.
The first-act Lucia/Edgardo duet is passionate and tender by turns, with Villaz≤n particularly good--note how he takes his solo softly and in a long breath--and they take Donizetti's outrageous combination of high E-flat for tenor and high C for soprano near its close, but they exchange lines. Very exciting indeed. The Duke and Gilda are roles made for them. She sounds sweet and vulnerable and he sounds like he believes what he's singing at the moment, and their final high D-flat together is a dazzler. I wish they'd sung Verdi's original cadenza instead of the usual abbreviation, however.
A hypnotic Roméo et Juliette duet follows, with gentle singing from both, and they make the most of Leila and Nadir's scene from The Pearl Fishers, turning in a languorous, smooth performance. The big duet from the third act of Manon finds Netrebko at her most seductive, and a duet from Iolanta, probably the most lyrical tenor/soprano moment in Russian opera, is a nice rarity, with Villaz≤n very at home in the Russian idiom and the pair soaring to great emotional heights. A delicious number from Torroba's zarzuela Luisa Fernando ends the CD on a soft, tender note.
Netrebko's diction remains secondary, as it has on her other CDs, and singing with a partner whose diction is as clean and clear as Villaz≤n's, it becomes more noticeable and unfortunate. But there's precious little to complain about--these two may not create the buzz in your head that flawlessly matched voices occasionally make, but it's a true pleasure to hear singing and communicating of this caliber.