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Classical 101

New CD releases for the Verdi Bicentennial


Contrary to the reports killing off the classical music recording industry, among the many new releases for fall are two all Verdi discs by two high-profile artists. Both discs will be controversial for different reasons. Soprano Anna Netrebko is one of the very few artists who can guarantee a sold-out house - usually.  She is the darling in Salzburg, Vienna and certainly New York. She has starred in more of The Met's Live in HD presentations than anyone else. Netrebko is a gorgeous woman with a sexy, dark hued soprano voice. It was once thought be an -ina. Good for sweet innocent little girl roles. Boring. Anna is a tad more zaftig these days following the birth of her first child two years ago, and her voice has indeed grown considerably. She is in the process of re inventing herself as that rare species today, the full lyric Verdi soprano. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjpX9ywK7l4 These voices seemed more plentiful in the recent past. Think Renata Tebaldi and Leontyne Price. Netrebko's new album of Verdi arias has just been released by DGG. Gone are the little girl, cutsie parts. Anna is singing Lady Macbeth and Joan of Arc. She's wonderful in the arias from Il trovatore and Don Carlo. She is not Lady Macbeth, not enough steel and brutality in the voice. Callas and Shirley Verrett ruined this opera for anyone else. But Anna is on the right track, and if all goes well should have an equally exciting second half of her career, now in the big girl roles. This Verdi CD is no must-have, but it is an impressive beginning. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29muhIXOAZw

Placido Domingo. God bless him. He is 72 years old, officially, and gave his first performances in 1960. He was the boy lead in his parents' Spanish operetta troupe, zarzuela. He starred in the first Mexican production of My Fair Lady (Mi Bella Dama). He premiered two operas by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. He grew up to be the big boy tenor in Verdi and Puccini, later in Wagner. There's no where he didn't sing. He recorded several operas two or three (or four) different times. He's also a conductor and general manager of opera companies in Washington and L.A. And you'd think at least as a singer he's earned an honorable retirement. Right? You gotta be kidding. Domingo is now a baritone. He is singing the baritone parts in all the big operas he used to dominate as tenor-hero. Now he's either baritone-nasty or baritone-dignified. He's been singing the title roles in Rigoletto and Simon Boccanegra. And you know what? God did not make Placido Domingo a baritone. He sounds like an older tenor. Lots of the voice remains luscious. A musician of his gifts is always interesting. But the snarl and bite of a great Verdi baritone is not there. He is a tenor singing baritone parts in age appropriate roles. Robert Merrill he's not. God love him.