International superstars Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón give inspired performances in Massenet's passionate opera, Manon. Netrebko gives full range to her abilities as a singer and actress in portraying innocence, lust, greed and, above all, beauty. It is Netrebko's mesmerizing performance which makes Villazón's youthful passion and ultimate despair even more authentic and heart-breaking. The setting in this production has been updated to the 1950s and the entire opera takes place as if Manon were the star of her own film. Indeed, Netrebko transforms her character from the innocence of Audrey Hepburn through the voluptuousness of Marilyn Monroe into the tragedy of Ingrid Bergman. The work of director Vincent Paterson, known for his work on Broadway and in music videos, is especially effective in creating an energetic and ultimately tragic performance with stunning visual splendor. Netrebko and Villazón, the true dream-team for this opera, are joined by the conductor Daniel Barenboim who leads the Staatskapelle Berlin in a spontaneous and passionate performance.
This new Traviata belongs near the top of the fine recorded versions of the opera despite a serious vocal problem in the middle. The great news is in the casting of the two lovers: Rolando Villazon's Alfredo is just about perfect. He sings with handsome, shaded tone, great attention to the text–his anger feels as real as his grief and passion–and absolute freedom throughout the range.
Rolando Villazón as Nemorino exhibits a real gift for comic acting, manipulating his rubber face into dozens of hilarious poses, flawlessly turning stock comic gestures into laugh-out-loud moments, and even juggling apples with the panache of a circus performer. More important, he uses his lyric tenor to sing the part with impressive subtlety, suggesting Nemorino's desperation while singing of his love for Adina. His big show-stopper, "Una furtiva lagrima," features melting pianissimos and a breathtaking decrescendo in its final phrase. Netrebko's Adina is every bit as good, with deft acting and a lovely lyric soprano voice that makes you understand why she's the only girl for Nemorino.
Here is the opera event of 2005, the Salzburg Festival’s "La Traviata" featuring Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, and Thomas Hampson in a dramatic staging by Willy Decker – the thrilling production that prompted riotous ovations not seen since Karajan’s heyday.
Two of the biggest names in opera join forces for a live performance from historic Red Square in the heart of Moscow, captured in stunning sound and vision with 18 high definition cameras and 5.1 cinema surround sound. Recorded at a superb live concert on 19 June 2013, Anna Netrebko and Dmitri Hvorostovsky return to their native Russia, singing a brilliant programme of popular arias and duets from some of the world’s best-loved operas, including Tosca, Eugene Onegin, and, celebrating Verdi's bicentenary, Il trovatore.
Lovers of Il trovatore a work famous for its perennially popular cavatinas and cabalettas rightly expect the singers to be at the very top of their vocal game and particularly look forward to the top C at the end of Manrico s stretta, a true do di petto produced not from the head but from the chest. Yet the production of the work that was staged at the end of 2013 by the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin jointly run by Daniel Barenboim and Jürgen Flimm deliberately flouted these expectations and traded familiarity for astonishment. Such a reaction was due not only to the two most famous singers of our age, both of whom were appearing onstage for the first time in their respective roles, but also to the company s music director, who made it abundantly clear that he was concerned with more than just a feast for the ears and rousing rum-ti-tum rhythms.
Three new releases this month (March) feature tenor Rolando Villazon–a CD of Zarzuela arias, one of works by Monteverdi, and this new DVD of a performance at the Vienna State Opera in 2005 of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore. Villazon is a remarkably versatile tenor and he puts his individual stamp on everything he does. Nemorino was a role in the repertoire of all "three tenors" in the 1970s and '80s: Domingo brought a certain smoothness to it early in his career, but his voice soon grew too heavy; Pavarotti was simple, affectionate, and bright-toned; and Carreras had vulnerability and warmth. Villazon has it all… –Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com