Where would opera be without its duets between soprano and tenor? Whether the duet is confrontational or tearful, joyously ecstatic or nakedly sexual, it is the intertwining of two high-flying voices that gives opera its emotional heart. As Rolando Villazón puts it: When the opera shows you two young lovers on stage who are ready to die for each other, the audience has to feel their passion.”
It helps if vocal allure is matched by physical glamour, and in that respect the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and the Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón are ideal. In The New York Times Anthony Tommasini described Netrebko as gorgeous” and Villazón as dashing”, while Alex Ross of The New Yorker suggested that they are two singers with a certain movie-star quality”. In Opera Martin Bernheimer simply labelled them opera’s stardust twins”.
Puccini’s La Boheme: Netrebko suggests, La Bohème is for young people who really feel the story. And we fit right in there.” Villazón agrees: Anna puts a special energy and imagination into the character of Mimì. We sang the opera together in St. Petersburg at the Mariinsky Theatre. It was the first time I’d sung in the city, the first time I’d worked with Maestro [Valery] Gergiev. We had just one rehearsal, and then the performance. I have to say it was a great success: people are still talking about it.” Netrebko knows the Mariinsky Theatre well. She made her debut at the theatre in 1994 and has sung there regularly ever since, but even she was surprised at the response to her and Villazón in La Bohème: St. Petersburg audiences love music, but usually they do not go wild: rather, they are polite. After this duet, though, there was endless applause, like I’d never seen before. It was fantastic.”
Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette: Anna Netrebko had already made her mark in Los Angeles with her performance as Lucia when she and Villazón sang in a new production at Los Angeles Opera in 2005. James C. Taylor, reviewing the performances in Opera, wrote that the opening night was a night for singing, for enjoying seeing two young star-crossed lovers played by two young, lovely-to-look-at stars”. The Los Angeles Times may have identified the secret of their success in Roméo et Juliette: . . . they were not only beautiful young lovers, but believable – something rare in a world where disbelief is often suspended in favour of magnificent voices.” But let’s give Anna the last word: Our energy comes from real music, real performance, real passion.” There you have the recipe for the pair’s success.
Netrebko and Villazón obviously enjoy the chance to test out their linguistic skills. As Villazón says, We wanted to include a piece in the language that each of us speaks. For me, that is Spanish, for Anna it is Russian. But we have also included duets in French and Italian. So we have tequila, vodka, grappa and . . . the French would be Bordeaux. Voilà!” As Netrebko says, What a wonderful cocktail!”
Anna Nebtreko, soprano
Rolando Villazon, tenor
LP1 – Side A:
Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924)
1. La Bohème – Act 1: “O soave fanciulla”
Gaetano Donizetti (1797 – 1848)
2. Lucia di Lammermoor – Act 1: Lucia perdona… Sulla tomba
LP1 – Side B:
Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)
1. Rigoletto – Act 1: “Giovanna, ho dei rimorsi… E il sol dell’anima”
Charles Gounod (1818 – 1893)
2. Roméo et Juliette – Act 4: “Va! je t’ai pardonné… Nuit d’hyménée
LP2 – Side C:
Georges Bizet (1838 – 1875)
1. Les pêcheurs de perles – Act 2: No. 8 Chanson: “De mon amie, fleur endormie” – No. 9 Due “Léila! Léila! Dieu puissant!”
Jules Massenet (1842 – 1912)
2. Manon – Act 3: Toi! Vous!… Ah! Viens, Manon, je t’aime!
LP2 – Side D:
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 -1893)
1. Iolanta Op. 69 – “Tvajo malchan’je nepan’atna”
Federico Moreno Torroba (1891 – 1982)
2. Luisa Fernanda – Act 3: Cállate, corazón! Duèrmete y calla!