So how was Anna Netrebko’s first Tosca?

So how was Anna Netrebko’s first Tosca?


norman lebrecht

April 22, 2018

First reviews are trickling in. Here they are, more or less in order of online appearance:

New York Classical Review:

This was the role debut Metropolitan Opera audiences have been dreaming of for more than a decade: on Saturday night, in a performance that was sold out months in advance, Anna Netrebko sang her first Tosca. The reigning diva of the opera world finally appeared as the greatest diva written for the stage.

Leading the season’s second cast in the new production by David McVicar that opened on New Year’s Eve, Netrebko gave a sensational performance. As ever, her soprano is dark and powerful, especially in her viscous, smoky middle range. Her top is as focused as it has sounded in years, soaring to majestic heights in “Vissi d’arte”; the passionate lament of Act II was breathtaking for both the passion of its delivery and the precision of its phrasing. The urgent piano singing in her plea after the aria was if anything even more affecting, a dramatic detail that completed the scene…

Poison Ivy:

So … how did the performance stack up against the hype? Pretty well, all things considered. Anna Netrebko is a Superdiva and Tosca is a Superdiva and the singer and the role were well-matched both musically and temperamentally. Netrebko’s voice has grown so much in volume and richness but lost a lot of flexibility. I saw a recent video of her Lady Macbeth in London and while it was exciting she struggled in the passagework of the role. Tosca makes no such demands. It allowed Netrebko to do what she does best, which is flood the auditorium with huge waves of sound. And her instrument is still a miracle. You can quibble with the suspect pitch, mushy diction, weird dipthonged vowels, and occasionally loosened vibrato. But to have a voice that can sing high, sing low, can fill any house with surround sound stereo volume, and with a gorgeous, plush timbre to boot — that’s God’s gift.

photo (c) Ken Howard/Met

Kurier (Vienna):

Anna Netrebko als Tosca – das ist wie ein Meisterwerk in einem Museum, das jeder sehen will und bei dem sich wohl nur die wenigsten Gedanken über den Kontext oder die Hängung machen.

Aber was macht Netrebko so besonders in gerade dieser Rolle? Sie war ja zuletzt auch als Aida in Salzburg extrem erfolgreich, als Maddalena di Coigny in „Andrea Chénier“ an der Scala oder als Elsa in „ Lohengrin“ in Dresden, als Lady Macbeth in München oder als Leonora im „Trovatore“, an vielen Häusern und auch in Wien. Die Antwort lautet: Sie singt die Tosca exakt zum richtigen Zeitpunkt. Viele wagen sich zu früh an diese Rolle und müssen sich in einem Gewaltakt bis zum Finale, zum Sturz von der Engelsburg, retten. Andere singen die Tosca noch zu spät, zu dramatisch, mit scheppernder Stimme. Netrebko, schon bei ihrem Erscheinen auf der Bühne mit Auftrittsapplaus bedacht, nimmt sich der großen Puccini-Diva am Zenit ihrer Karriere an (wobei Zenit? Wer weiß, was bei ihr noch kommt).

Feminine and vulnerable yet mercurial and implacable, Netrebko’s Floria Saturday night was already an astonishingly complete realization of a quintessential diva role she initially swore she would never do and since has suggested she doesn’t particularly like. I don’t much care for Tosca either, but Netrebko’s been absent from the Met for a year so I along with an eager, jam-packed house welcomed her back with open arms and hearty bravas.

New York Times (Tommasini):

Ms. Netrebko knew what she was doing. She was a magnificent Tosca. From her first entrance, Ms. Netrebko, one of the opera world’s genuine prima donnas, seemed every bit Puccini’s volatile heroine, an acclaimed diva in the Rome of 1800, seized in the moment with jealous suspicions over her lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi. As she hurled accusations at Mario — Why was the church door locked? Who were you whispering with? I heard a woman’s rustling skirt! — it took a couple of minutes for Ms. Netrebko’s voice to warm up fully. By the time Tosca, having pushed doubts aside, beguiles Mario into a rendezvous at his villa that night, Ms. Netrebko’s singing was plush, radiant and suffused with romantic yearning.


  • Pedro says:

    I was there. Superb performance specially in the third act. Even her husband was good, though there is no warnth in his voice. The worst think was the weak conducting of de Billy.

    • Hermann Lederer says:

      I was there too and to blame conductor is not only unfair – it shows not real knowledge of the piece. The orchestra started with enormous dramatic impetus. Only when Evazov appeard on stage the challenge for the conductor was to follow his tempochanges bar by bar. And when the Primadonna appeared the tempo went down to half what it was before because that was the speed Floria Tosca needed for herlove affair with the prompter during the evening . What we really heard was a promise for the future and no perfection at all. Ms Netrebko is obviously still learning the part and we witnessed more an open dress rehearsal than a real performance. That she will be in the future THE Tosca – no doubt! But on this evenening we have seen work in progress. The conductor is not to blame; much more he deserves admiration. With a less experienced musician this evening would not have ended with such a success for the singers.

  • Caravaggio says:

    It is deplorable and lamentable that Peter Gelb indulges this soprano’s every whim. He let her off the hook (no doubt at her insistence) on this her first tryout at the role by cancelling the scheduled live stream on less than 24 hour notice. Except that no notice was ever given to the public as to why. So they cleverly and quietly rescheduled the broadcast to showcase her in presumably better form down the run. Untold performers have had their first nights captured without much ado or fuss, for good and bad, warts and everything. And I doubt few would have had the clout to request a broadcast be stopped just because they were not feeling well or optimal or suffering from first night jitters or whatever. Gross.

    • Player says:

      There is no pleasing some people. Rejoice! We have a Tosca!

      • Caravaggio says:

        No, “we” don’t have a Tosca. The world has had its fair share of good and great Toscas. A dime a dozen. In a time of precipitating diminishing returns, this was calculated for maximum public relations bang for its buck. So perhaps yes, in an era of substandards, we have a Tosca. As I said, gross.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Have you ever considered that there was no live Saturday matinee broadcast yesterday (it was an “archive” performance from the fall) and therefore the entire Media department had well-deserved weekend off? After a full season of the twice-weekly streams and the Saturday Afternoon Radio Broadcasts (thank you, Toll Brothers), perhaps you can wait a few days for your FREE relay? I have worked with Anna, and I doubt she gives a rat’s ass when or if it is broadcast. That said, brava to her for what sounds like a very, very good first go at Tosca.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Oh, and exactly how does anything you charge merit “Gross”? I would categorize your reply as selfish and snivelling, however. The free Met streams are a gift, not a given, and we shouldn’t forget that.

      • Caravaggio says:

        Don’t care if the live relays are free, mortgaged or in between. Fact is there was an announced stream that got cancelled at the 11th hour so to speak due to the soprano’s self serving vanity.

        • Poisonivy says:

          Wow a livestream that’s rescheduled is causing you to be this upset? Talk about first world problems.

          • Caravaggio says:

            It’s not that the rug got pulled from under the broadcast at the 11th hour that bothers me so much. The dust off is about the institutional complicity to indulge the whims of the soprano so that no one could hear her not at her best on her first night. As you well know, far too many performers have been torn to pieces critically on their first nights for one reason or another. But that’s courageous of them to expose themselves, first night jitters and all. Cowardice, compounded with self serving vanity, on the other hand, is what Netrebko (with Gelb’s complicity) is what this is about. Get it?

          • Caravaggio says:

            Not to mention that by removing the aural evidence from the public, the coast was cleared for the media, and given free rein, to prop up the woman once again. Perfectly orchestrated.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          Buy a ticket.

        • Sharon says:

          Announced live stream video series? It was never part of the Opera in HD series. Are you referring to just audio over radio or is there some live stream on the internet separate from the Opera in HD in cinemas?

      • HugoPreuss says:

        I have been to the Met many times; a fine opera house, if a bit too conservative for my taste (staging, programs, just about everything).

        Having said that, what do you mean “free Met streams”?? I am pretty sure that my radio station is paying a nice fee for the Met and its marketing department for the right to broadcast the performance. Nothing wrong with that, the Met has to make money like any other theater. But spare me the “free” part. Of course they are paid for it, AND the advertising value is free on top of it.

        BTW, Netrebko the “reigning diva of the opera world”?? Perhaps in her dreams. Or the dreams of her syccophants and her political master. There are, thank God, a few other sopranos out there who sing just as magnificently and do so without the baggage Ms Netrebko is carrying with her.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          With all due respect, you are absolutely wrong.

          The Saturday matinee radio broadcasts are provided FREE of charge to US stations. (In fact, when Texaco was the sponsor many years ago, they went as far as to pay the commercial stations not to run any advertisements during the program.) Regardless, the Saturday matinee broadcasts were always free. All you need is a radio (or now computer). If there is no station carrying them in your city, just petition your local radio stations. The programming is theirs for the asking (and free).

          The free live streams (other than the Saturday matinee broadcasts) are accessed through the Met’s website. These are free to stream on your home computer. Check out the weekly schedule.

          As I said in an earlier post, these broadcasts are a gift.

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Aren’t the a gift of the Toll brothers? E.g. some rich and generous donator has funded the radio broadcasts.

  • Adista says:

    It’s opera, who cares

  • PaulD says:

    Still no Cavaradossi for May 8 and 12th… .

  • Alexander says:

    wonderful reviews , it’s such a pleasure to read them – and it only proves once more that there is no diva without a huge voice , there are many sopranos who have voices to be noticed, there are a few who have it multiplied by the volume at the same time … just my opinion , of course
    P.S. That’s why I’m so stuck with the Prodigy ( Elina Stikhina) – she is a good successor of old traditions

  • Trevor Lynes says:

    What a lot of negative diatribe about subjects altogether different than the review of Anna Netrebko’s performance in her first Tosca. The reviews from the experts are unanimous that hers was a fantastic performance in the highest echelon.
    No soprano has ever given so much entertainment in so many totally different roles than she has.
    From Don Pasquale comedy to really tragedic parts she has never ceased to give 100% all around entertainment in both singing and acting.
    I think that a few have wanted her to fall off her lofty perch and that is quite normal for some.
    Not me, I want her success to continue, she has shaken the cobwebs off opera and brought it to a younger audience. Long may this lady reign !!!!

  • Allan Jacobson says:

    I was there. It was wonderful. Anna Nebtrebko was a perfect Tosca. My only slight disappointment was e lucevan el Stella – lacked intensity.

  • Anna Sorkin says:

    It is so appalling that the discussion here is centered solely around a rescheduled broadcast. Is this to avoid the fact that Anna just gave us yet another magnificent performance? And yes, Anna deserves a special treatment whether you like it or not. You people are pathetic. Enjoy great art while it lasts!

  • Trevor Lynes says:

    I must admit that I do tend to give more credence to expert reviewers and other opera stars like Domingo who rates Anna up with the best he ever sang with.
    He actually said he could well imagine her leading troops after watching the way she totally enthralls audiences.
    I rate his opinion and others who are more expert than myself.
    I just enjoy her as an all around entertainer.
    She appears to be a really nice lady well liked by her opera colleagues which must be a big plus in my opinion.