Published : 2013-09-17 16:50
Updated : 2013-09-17 16:50
NEW YORK (AP) ― Already one of the most famous singers in the world, Anna Netrebko is about to claim a new title at the Metropolitan Opera: The prima donna is becoming a “three-ma” donna.
When the Russian diva launches the Met season on Sept. 23 in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” it will mark her third consecutive opening night ― a milestone no soprano has ever reached before in leading roles.
The streak began in 2011 in Donizetti’s tragic “Anna Bolena” and continued last year with a comedy by the same composer, “L’Elisir d’Amore.” She scored in both operas, though the first stretched her vocal abilities to their limits and the second seemed like something she had outgrown.
In “Onegin,” she will be returning to her Russian roots, singing in her native language at the Met for the first time since her 2002 debut in Prokofiev’s “War and Peace.” Tatiana, the heroine of the Tchaikovsky opera adapted from Pushkin, is a fascinating creation who grows from an impressionable young woman rejected by the man she adores to a sophisticated married noblewoman who rebuffs the same man’s belated passion.
The role seems an ideal fit for Netrebko’s large, luscious voice, glamorous looks and luminous stage presence (as critics agreed when she premiered the role in Vienna earlier this year).
Yet she said Tatiana has proved an acting challenge because she finds the heroine behaving very differently from the way a woman would in today’s world.
“I’m a girl from the 21st century, and I would do everything opposite,” Netrebko said in an interview during a break from rehearsals last week.
During the interview, Netrebko twice made a point of apologizing for having dropped the “F-bomb” in an Opera News interview. She was rather bluntly expressing her view that a modern-day Tatiana would surely have an affair with Onegin once he finally declares his love.
“I received angry letters about it,” she said, blushing. “What I meant was that in our time it would be very hard to lose your love. Who would say no? If you have such strong feelings, there is a way to be together.”
To get in touch with Tatiana’s sensibility, Netrebko said she tries “to remember nobility, sincerity, honor, sacrifice ― all those words which we are not using anymore much.”
Beyond the usual excitement of opening night, there’s a political controversy hanging over the occasion. Some activists had called for the company to dedicate the performance to a protest against laws in Russia restricting the rights of homosexuals. (Both Netrebko and conductor Valery Gergiev were public supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s re-election last year.)