From the San Francisco staging of Traviata last year-- Renate Stendahl, photo.

There ought to be a law against being as beautiful as Anna Netrebko– but there isn’t.  More importantly, there should be a law against how she can sing.

I started listening to Anna sometime back in the middle 2000’s performing with the Met.  A few weeks ago I found a cache of her videos on You Tube, many of which include her moments with tenor Rolando Villazon.

Today her CD of Russian arias came and took me over the top.  What a fabulously rich voice.

Those writing in the opera genre about opera and its divas may be a bit jaded in terms of their expectations. Netrebko has an immense repertoire, an inimitable range with gorgeous coloring, replete with coloratura ability.  When she sings, one soars.  One smiles, one weeps:  this is beauty.  This is the transcendance of the ordinary into something eternally exquisite.

Netrebko is first and foremost, a Russian singer, meaning that she is an athlete and marathon runner of the voice.  In recital she exudes warmth and grace to the audience.  In a production she is spellbinding.

The Russian arias are haunting in the best sense.  She seems the most at home in them despite the indelible beauty of her Manon, the poignance of her Mimi, the fire of her Carmen, and in recent years, the dramatic and lyrical color she brings to Lucia– even though Sutherland and Callas made that role their own.  No one has ever outdone Sutherland’s mad scenes in terms of the coloratura, but Netrebko in my view outdoes Nalie Dessay, whose Met Lucia was a little bit too crazy for everyone.

Not to fault Dessay, but she doesn’t have the darkness, the sweeping grandeur of voice that Netrebko does.

In 2008 Netrebko married Erwin Schott–quite possibly the best-looking baritone the world has ever seen.  They had a son.  In emerging from early motherhood Anna the woman, Anna the voice are as intense and beautiful as ever.


Netrebko and Villazon in the film version of Boheme....

Get to know her through her videos, and buy one of her earlier records.  She and Rolando Villazon made a La Boheme film together and it is beautiful.

Watch her scenes from Manon with Villazon; the two are romping in bed– a staging like that would have seen my own mother leave the hall– she walked out of a production of Lysistrata I was in in the 60’s.  Never one to leave in doubt how she felt about anything, my mother.

Like mother like daughter– and I credit my mother with introducing me to opera and giving me Sutherland’s The Art of the Prima Donna years ago.

I also recommend Pavarotti’s sumptuous singing, still, even in the face of the abundant tenori recordings of the likes of Kauffman, Vargas, Florez.  There was only one big Il Divo in my view.

Netrebko is a rose in the garden that sustains me on a daily basis.  When I hear her sing of the fatherland in these Russian arias, I know that ultimately, with all of our wounds and indiginities and things that are “awry” in the world, we have not yet extinguished beauty.