Review: soprano Anna Netrebko at height of her powers in Hong Kong debut

The Russian soprano more than lived up to her star billing, her technique flawless and her magnificent voice powerful and expressive. But the revelation of the night was her husband and duets partner, tenor Yusif Eyvazov

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 2:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 2:30pm

No star shines brighter in today’s operatic world than Anna Netrebko. Not since Maria Callas has any diva created such an impact.

The Russian-born soprano started her career under Valery Gergiev’s guidance at the Mariinsky Opera in St Petersburg, singing her first leading role at the age of 22. Since then she has appeared at every major opera house, winning acclaim from the critics and adoration from the public worldwide for her magnificent voice, beauty and charisma.

For her Hong Kong debut (a major coup for the Hong Kong Arts Festival) Netrebko was joined by her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazov, in a programme of well-known arias and duets drawn mostly from the Italian repertoire.

READ MORE Arts review: Simon Boccanegra can’t overcome its inherent problems

From the moment Netrebko began to sing, it was clear why her reputation stands so high. Her rich, dark-toned voice is equally capable of massive power and exquisite softness, propelled by a flawless technique – she makes everything seem effortless, the sure sign of a great performer at the height of her powers.

Her acting, vivid and detailed, matches the quality of her singing. Her warm personality could be felt throughout.

Highlights included two great arias by Puccini, a heartfelt Un bel di (One Fine Day) from Madame Butterfly and a ravishing O mio babbino caro – the last bars of the latter, sung with gossamer delicacy, were truly magical.

If Netrebko more than lived up to expectation, the revelation of the evening was Eyvazov. Scheduled to sing Calaf in Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera and the title role in Otello at the Mariinsky later this year, he is clearly destined for great things.

READ MORE Review: Verdi’s Requiem/Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda - intensity meets poetry

A heroic tenor in the Domingo mode, he has a strong stage presence and a huge voice – the ringing final note of his encore, Nessun Dorma, brought the house down.

The couple, only married since December, had a delightful rapport and showed off their dramatic range in their duets, from the passion of Otello and Desdemona to the charming flirtation between Mimi and Rudolfo in La Boheme, ending the evening with a rollicking Libiamo ne’ lieti calici from La Traviata.

They were accompanied by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jader Bignamini, who did a superb job, sensitive to the singers and bringing out a lovely full tone from the orchestra – bold and richly coloured in the sinfonia from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, lushly lyrical in the intermezzo from Massenet’s Manon Lescaut.

Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov in Concert, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall. Reviewed: March 8