Monday, December 31, 2007

A Dose of Polenzani with some Netrebko ... What the Doctor Orders for the New Year!

Tonight at 7:00PM EST/0000 GMT, the Met will be streaming over its free Real Player stream and on Sirius Satellite Radio a live performance of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, starring Matthew Polenzani as Roméo and Anna Netrebko as Juliette. Geoffrey and I saw Polenzani's first essay of the role of Roméo at the Met last Thursday, December 27th, and a thrilling night at the opera it was!

We urge you all to tune in and hear the next new thing ... Matthew Polenzani brings to the role some of the ardor of Franco Corelli, the compusiveness of the young Neil Shicoff (in the '80s), the elegant mastery of style of Alfredo Krauss, the beauty of legato of Björling, and a mastery of nuance, shading and dynamics all his own (catch his breathtaking diminuendo at the end of "Ah! leve-toi, soleil!"...). With all his rigorous musicianship, he also brings a spontaneity to the music that is as rare as it is deeply stirring. So much of what Gounod wrote is dependent on clear projection of French and Polenzani's lovely diction helps make Roméo what Gounod probably intended for this piece, the poet of the opera.

George Bernard Shaw described one thrilling moment in Jean de Reszke's Roméo, the moment when he launched the slow lament after the "sturm und drang" of the duel between Tybalt and Roméo, as especially remarkable because however furious de Reszke's singing in the duel, "his voice suddenly sounded as if it had been wrapped in cotton wool for a week". This is precisely what Polenzani carried off -- a testament to his impeccable technique. Even in the final tomb scene, there was no sign of fatigue, his voice sounding as fresh and linear as ever.

As for Ms. Netrebko, she comes into her own in the final scenes, where the tessitura darkens. Her potion aria was the highlight of her performance: easy, refulgent, emotional tones filling the house. Juliettes generally are divided into those who are either good at portraying the girl or good at portraying the married woman, Gounod having calibrated the music to mark the maturing Juliette. Netrebko decidedly belongs to the latter group and she can pack such thrills into these later scenes that it is well worth hearing her. Every time I hear her, I think that the voice is getting bigger and darker. I yearn for the time when she moves away from the leggiero roles she currently sings and settles firmly into straight lyric roles, which are what I feel her voice was born for. She would be a terrific Tatiana or Cio-Cio San.

But enough talking about these two wonderful singers. They share a special chemistry together. Go, thee, and listen up! For a new star has arrived...

Happy listening,

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