Les pêcheurs de Perles – De mon amie … Dieu puisssant
Lucia di Lammermoor – Lucia, perdona … Sulla tomba
Roméo et Juliette – Va! je t’ai pardonné
Manon – Toi! Vous! … N’est-ce plus ma main
La Bohème – O soave fanciulla
Iolanta – I do not understand your silence
Luisa Fernanda – Cállate corazón
Rigoletto – È il sol dell’anima
Anna Netrebko (soprano) & Rolando Villazón (tenor)
Recorded in August 2006 in Lukaskirche, Dresden
Reviewed by: John T. Hughes
Reviewed: June 2007
CD No: DG 477 6457
Duration: 71 minutes
A few years ago Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna formed the operatic couple, but now it seems to be the Russian-Mexican partnership of Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón taking star-billing and drawing the crowds. This CD presents the latter pair in a programme consisting predominantly of Italian and French duets, with favourable results.
One of the most successful items is from “Manon”, the St Sulpice Scene; both singers are well suited to their role. Netrebko is at her lyrical best as she sings “N’est-ce plus ma main”, softly, sweetly, reflectively, hopefully. It is a scene in which the intimate links with the impassioned, and the two artists respond winningly. Also convincing is the duet of Romeo and Juliet, radiant in love in the shadow of death, of which Netrebko and Villazón give an impressive performance, as they do in the Bizet duet.
In the Italian field, Villazón in particular contributes much to the ‘Lucia’ excerpt. He sings “Verranno a te” softly, with long breaths enhancing the line. I find his partner less responsive but not without merit, and the whole duet finds both in good voice, whether in the exuberant or the subdued passages. The item from “Rigoletto” shows Villazón reflecting the Duke’s devil-may-care attitude towards the gullible Gilda while managing to sound sincere, projecting the long phrases in youthful tone, and Netrebko suggests the girl’s vulnerability. The shortest duet is “O soave fanciulla”, which goes well, but I wish they had not both taken the high note at the end: it doesn’t match what has gone before.
We are left with the two non-French, non-Italian items. They are two of the best here. The scene of Vodemon and the blind Iolanta, the latter one of the sweetest characters in opera, is a lovely one in all aspects. Iolanta says that she has been given eyes to cry: what is light, what is sight? The second half, from “Nature’s wonderful, eternal gift”, has a beautiful melody, taken first by the tenor and then by the soprano. Netrebko gives one of her best performances on the disc and Villazón pours out a stram of lyrical tone to match her. It’s lovely, yet it is equalled (well, more or less) by something far gentler, with no high notes to flash out: the scene of Luisa Fernanda and Javier. Just relax and be wooed, and perhaps consider how closely Villazón’s timbre resembles Domingo’s in many places.
The recorded sound has a noticeably reverberant touch on some tracks, but fortunately the voices and orchestra come through cleanly, occasional hardness notwithstanding.