The worst you’ll ever hear Netrebko sing

The worst you’ll ever hear Netrebko sing


norman lebrecht

November 11, 2019

We warned you yesterday that she was turning out in Moscow at the 90th birthday gala of the Soviet sentimentalist composer, Aleksandra Pakhmutova.

Nobody told us Anna was going to sing.

Watch this and you’ll wish she hadn’t.

That’s Mikhail Pletnev conducting.

He shouldn’t be there, either. The orchestra, uncredited, is that of the Bolshoi theatre.

As for those poor children….



  • Lohengrinloh says:

    She did a great job as always. This is a song and not an opera aria. Relax.

    ‘Sentimentalist composer’…when will people stop judging about things they have no slightest idea of.

  • Alexander says:

    her natural timbre is dark, so one can be deluded and think she is off pitch. Her highs are norm to my ears. When she sang “Il Bacio” I also thought it wasn’t her thing. Tastes differ.
    I couldn’t see ( hear) anything terribly wrong in this. Just not her cup of tea. To say more it is like to compare “Il dolce suono” sung by La Divina and La Stupenda. I prefer Lovely Granny Joan in the part of Lucia. Norma , of course, belongs to Maria.
    Any way – who cares 😉

  • Peter Owen says:

    The purest schlock; absolutely no melodic, harmonic or rhythmic interest at all. I recommend it’s entered into next year’s Eurovision song contest where it would have a high chance of winning.

  • Cassandra says:

    She’s wearing an interesting dress.
    Very à la mode.

    • Sergio says:

      What do you mean, “multi-layered”?

      • Cassandra says:

        Several layers of fabric, which makes the garment
        fall/fold/hang elegantly around its person.

        (Welcome, by the way, to Slipped Disc’s pop up fashion page.)

        In addition, Ms Netrebko’s dress is cut in a way which gives her a very statuesque silhouette.
        I like it.
        And let’s not deny. Black is, as always, the New Black.

    • Jennifer Osborne says:

      I think the dress is horrendously ugly

  • sam says:

    Warms the cockles of my heart.

    (Whatever cockles are. But mine is very warm, seeing Netrebko.)

  • Audrone says:

    Absolutely nothing wrong with her singing. Agree with others – it is NOT lady Macbeth.

  • There’s nothing particularly wrong with the singing or conducting. In fact, the singing is remarkable–an extraordinary sense of power and body that she is hardly even tapping, and with a gorgeous tone. (The pitch is fine too.) And though kitsch, compared to the vast majority of popular entertainment in the USA and Europe, the niveau and sense of taste of not so bad. I’ll spare people some illustrative links.

    And with the way my mind works, I hear so much more than just a celebratory concert. For one thing, I see a culture that is strongly celebrating a woman composer who has written some admirable classical works. The trumpet concerto, for example, is standard rep for trumpeters. And I see high level politicians joining in a celebration of a composer with a well-trained orchestra and excellent children’s choir, performing work clearly related to classical music.

    And I hear this strange spirit of the Russians which echoes with a sense of trauma that remains to this day and which gives them a very unique sense of national identity. They lost 27 million people in WWII defeating the Nazis. And by any measure, they did at least 80% of the work in defeating them. Such massive loss, horror, and sacrifice inevitably still colors everything the Russians do.

    This makes the partisan criticism especially ironic, since if the Russians hadn’t done all that the Nazis would have easily won, and some of Russia’s most ardent and persistent critics would not even exist. This isn’t to say that the Russians haven’t made big errors, but that too has to measured against our own mistakes.

    And of course, I deeply regret that this even has to be mentioned. I hope it won’t be taken amiss.

    • C Porumbescu says:

      “Wow”, is the appropriate response here, I feel. I’m sure the critics of Russia who “would not even exist” but for Uncle Joe’s compassionate and disinterested intervention in WW2, will show proper respect in future. It really is beyond the Pale, so to speak. Eh?

      • Tamino says:

        Knowledge about history is not your forte?
        Is that why until today the US thinks it needs to be present in the Pacific and European theaters? Even instigating trouble by pushing their sphere of hegemony eastward under the disguise of NATO?
        You understood that “fuck Europe” phrase of your recent deputy state secretary completely wrong.
        She meant “boot in their neck”, not “we don’t care”.

    • Lev Deych says:

      I would prefer you to stop romanticizing the “mysterious Russian soul” and especially their great sacrifice during WWII. Yes, they lost a lot of people, mainly due to the stupidity and lack of care for the soldiers on part of their generals starting with their generalissimos, and no, they did no 80% of the fighting. Without American assistance, the Russian army would have collapsed already by the end of 1941 simply for the lack of food. And to compare Russian so-called mistakes (which are not much different from the “mistakes” made by the Nazis) to our mistakes is the worst case of moral relativism. As far as Netrebko singing is concerned I am no expert, but she definitely sold her artistic soul to Putin’s regime and lost her integrity as an artist by participating in this propaganda of Soviet kitsch.

      • So many obvious self-serving falsehoods to defend an anti-Russian bias. 1) The concert is kitsch, but not Soviet kitsch. 2) The Soviets didn’t lose 27 million due to stupidity, but because Hitler planned to exterminate the Slavs and colonize their lands. 3) And they did do 80% of the job as the German casualties and loss of material show. 4) One in every four Soviet soldiers died in the war. For Americans it was one in every 100. Soviet KIAs were 68 times higher than America’s. 5) American aid helped, but it was Soviet (mainly Russian) fighting that defeated Germany. 6) There is a difference between post-war Russian mistakes and post-war American mistakes. Since WWII we’ve killed 4 million people in unjustified wars. Russia’s sins don’t match that.

        But I suffer no illusions about changing the mind of a brainwashed, propagandizing anti-Russian American. The more they are confronted with the truth, the more the bluster and bellow their hatred. Life in Trumpistan.

        • Rory says:

          Between Lenin,Stalin and Nikita K. The total far exceeds 4 million.

          • Tamino says:

            That was long before the US started to catch up lately on the international killing stage.
            The US internal genocidal killings date further back though.

        • Lev Deych says:

          I am afraid it is you who is brainwashed and suffers from poor knowledge of the history of WWII and the actual price of great Russian victory. Heard, for instance about zagran-otryadax (NKVD groups standing behind Russian lines and shooting everyone who tried to retreat)? This is just one example of Russian crimes against their own soldiers. Zhukov (a great Russian general) famously said – I do not care about losses among my troops – Russian women will produce more. So, it is better to educate yourself a bit about the topic you are trying to comment on before actually writing something. This way you wouldn’t look such an ass.

        • Lev Deych says:

          And by the way, the song itself is atypical Soviet propaganda song about a forest in Belorussia, which is not even a part of Russia anymore. This song appeals to imperialist nostalgia of Russians, the leftover from the Soviet times, so it is Soviet kitsch.

        • christopher storey says:

          Absolute nonsense from Mr Osborne here, and I am no lover of the USA. He seems to forget that the USSR colluded with Hitler to demolish Poland , persecuted much of the Russian and Polish Jewish population, and sided with Nazi Germany for nearly 2 years .

      • Tatiana R. says:

        You are wrong! It is not a “propaganda of Soviet kitsch”, it is a part of Russian cultural code, Russial soul, an emphathy that European people have lost.
        Anna’s interpretation was excellent, her singing is not related to Mr. Putin’ “regime”, it is her gift of God! And really , the concert was incredible, very big delight!

    • Tom Rakewell says:

      How’s about you sing us one of them ol’ Toby Keith songs, William?? Tune up your ol’ banjo – and pluck off!

    • Katia Shraga says:

      Over 20 million people were killed during Stalin’s repressions. Did “such massive loss, horror” affected “Russians'” attitude toward Stalin? Nope, they still love him.

      • Tom Rakewell says:

        Where do you find any praise for Stalin in this song, Katia??? Where exactly? Or are you just trolling?

      • Two thoughts: 1) One of the bitter ironies of history is that seems have taken a monster to stop a monster. As the smoke clears, we are seeing that the worst monster lost. (That’s not to defend Stalin.) 2) The Soviet Union ceased to exist 27 years ago. One should not conflate the Soviet Union with Russia.

        • esfir ross says:

          Agreement of separation Belorussia from union was sighned in Belovezhskaya Pushcha

          • LewesBird says:

            Esfir Ross, please stick to Moldovan (or Moldavian, as you call it) history and to dentistry. That agreement was far more than about Byelorussia’s divorce (and not only because the Ukraine was also part of it). It was really the moment when the whole of the USSR was let go.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Where is the evidence for current love of Stalin?

    • Julia says:

      Thank you!

    • Jennifer Osborne says:

      Sorry , I think you need your ears checked.

    • Operalover says:

      Stalin murdered an estimated 50 million of his own people during his reign to the 1950s…not sure what that has to do with Netrebko however, who sounds horrid here; maybe an ‘off’ day…

  • cym says:

    Netrebko and Pletnev are not to be blamed here, but, instead, let’s blame the growing infantile marketing for masses, with syrupy music arrangements.
    Do great artists need these venues to survive ? I hope not.

  • Olassus says:

    Was that Edward Snowden walking out?

  • pianofortissimo says:

    Kitsch, very kitsch. However, I’d rather listen to this song when I turn on my car’s radio than to rap or Western pop.

  • Rob says:

    Drilled to perfection.

  • Brian says:

    Would that be Elton’s Mum on piano?

  • mary says:

    Technically, no, there”s nothing wrong with her singing, as such, but it’s not a pretty voice. If you heard her voice on a pop radio station (which is what she’s singing), you’d continue turning the dial. If you heard her voice on Broadway, you’d say, meh.

    On neither front, pop nor Broadway, would you say she has a good voice. You’d say she has excellent technique for what voice she has.

    • homework says:

      Sounds as if she’s got a cold, and doing her best to sign through it, actually.


        i agree. she sounds hoarse, but singing over and through it as best she can. i have done a lot worse on such occasions. and i like the song. i didn’t want it to end! the children are adorable and who is the little lady at the piano?

        • LewesBird says:

          The adorable little lady was the person who composed the piece in the early 70s and whose 90th anniversary is what this whole show was all about.

  • Uncle S says:

    The ears differ, indeed! That YT clip had several dozen comments – before they (surprise, surprise!) were turned off. Most of the commentators were, like myself, people who were born and grew in the Soviet Union and thus have heard that wonderful song many, many times – covered by vocalists of all genders, backgrounds and ages. Some of the YT commentators were professional musicians.The common thread in the comments was that this was one of the worst performances of that song (or even – THE worst!) they’ve ever heard. (I concur!). As for the reasons, people suggested that AN a) may have a strong cold at the moment, and/or b) didn’t have any rehearsals, and/or c) hasn’t chosen the proper tonality for herself – possibly because of …well, see b)

    By the way, that discussion (what the hell was THAT? and why??) now has spread to other Internet forums for Russian-speaking classical music lovers – with pretty much the same sentiments, which I could politely summarize by saying that it looks like in the eyes of many AN had a really bad vocal outing yesterday (and yes, even the great ones are entitled to one of those now and then) – but that would be somewhat of understatement…

    • esfir ross says:

      Terrible and inappropriate choice of song about forest in Belorussia. AP is in league of composers “plessinik – pessiniks”. “Molded songs writer”. Staunch time-server, mediocre melodist, derelict.


    Vacuous music and terrible singing, horribly flat a lot of the time, but delivered with AN’S customary wholeheartedness

    • Jason Lewis says:

      ‘Horribly flat a lot of the time’ Mmm. I think your lugs are quite a bit out there, Rupe. A few tuning problems, yes, but not horribly flat a lot of the time. Anyway, would you be kind enough to post your doubtless perfect version so that we can hear how it should be done?

    • Tamino says:

      Horribly flat eh? Are you sure? Maybe it was pitched too sharp mostly instead? The disease of our times. Clueless but overconfident people.

  • Wes says:

    She’s Still Young… Give it Time. They’ve Yet to Completely Obliterate Democracy….but the Cold War IS STILL VERY MUCH ON, at least for the modern AXIS powers of Dictatorship, whether they are currently officially Communists or Not!

  • Uncle S says:

    Here are just two (mostly) in-tune alternative versions from 1970-s to the Netrebko’s (mostly) out-of-tune one from yesterday. The second clip, BTW, was made in such a way that what you see in the video often matches the lyrics at the moment, which (the lyrics) describes the awe and the humility one experiences being in that great National Park in Belarus and looking at all those wonders of the natural world: the oak and the birch trees, the deer and the bison and the birds, the streams and pathways…

  • David says:

    Could someone explain, from a technical perspective, why her singing would have been so seemingly flat and harsh? Not looking to criticize her,personally, but trying to understand.
    Was it likely due her voice being unsuited? That she had a cold? That she had not warmed up? Not rehearsed?

    • Nijinsky says:

      She doesn’t really have the timbre of voice she’s trying to use it for.


      Before she got into the dramatics she thinks is so much fun, she used her voice better.

      There are so many different ways to describe what she’s doing, but she’s stressing her voice and it ends up stuck in her throat a bit, she does lighten up when there’s more of a release in the phrase and she has to let the voice do its thing without pushing, which is maybe the key to her success and why she hasn’t done her voice in yet, because many singers never allow that. But I really think she’s singing stuff not suited for her voice, or she’s just over doing it. And people seem to love the dramatics.

      When the stuff was going on with Domingo, and all sides were fighting in extremity, she said she would ski on the storm or something like that.

      It’s too bad because she’s a really nice person, and very willing to help art, which she does somehow end up doing, but she’s turned herself into a media personality advertising a certain aplomb to just do her own thing despite all of the storm of fussy criticism, ideology and arrogance in the classical music world.

    • esfir ross says:

      All of them above

    • Nijinsky says:

      David, sadly a lot of people hear what you’re pointing out. Read the comments.

  • Mimi Meeham says:

    Come on, it wasnt that bad. Difficult song to sing. Could you do it better?

  • Nicholas says:

    There is nothing wrong with artists in the highbrow cultural field to occasionally cross over to perform music of a lower order. I believe many individuals, some of them even being cultured and refined, will listen to music that can be objectively categorized as schlock, sentimental, corny, etc..for the curiosity or sheer pleasure of the moment.

  • Z Watson says:

    Not a huge fan of Anna Netrebko however, this is unfair. On her social media account, Miss Netrebko mentions how she was very emotional and cried. This song bought back memories of her singing as child. She was overcome. I can hear that emotion and fighting back the tears listening to this. As an artist you are supposed to be able to seperate this kind of emotion and, deliver time after time, not easy. As a singer, I know how difficult this can be at times.

  • Rory says:

    It’s her culture. It’s her experience. It can not be denied . By the way,She is wonderfully gifted with a voice unmatched in recent times.

  • Dan says:

    What is your problem Norman?

  • Josephine Hammond says:

    I’d put part of the blame on an inferior microphone and sound system. Why do they need such a thing?

  • Julia says:

    Sometimes it’s hard to keep your emotions, when singing a song that reminds you the best time of your life. Especially for the good singer with the heart.

    • Nijinsky says:

      Julia, you’re right.
      And music heals the soul, changes people’s hearts, that’s its nature, to start censoring that is like depriving a hungry person of food in order to make them healthy.

      • Nijinsky says:

        I wonder whether some people misunderstood my comment here. I simply don’t think that the harmony of the planet rests on whether you punish people properly, witholding what they need for life (and emotional health) according to your judgment of their behavior. And that goes for both sides of the arguments, what each sides says is the bad guy, whether that’s censoring within a regime or saying that anyone sharing what it is to be human with a regime seen as corrupt is seen as being bad, because that’s also a form of censoring. In fact all you end up getting is a whole splay of different fragments and factions, all with territories they defend from finding out that there’s another way. Music is the universal language, on the other hand.

  • Anna Barry says:

    I rarely comment on things like this however as I love this voice and this artist, I would truly love (not) to hear how some of these expert critics would themselves (because OF COURSE they can) sing a song like this which is part of a completely different time and experience… Here is what I think. This is not a song written for a voice of the range and timbre of Anna Netrebko, but she has every right to sing it with the evident emotion that she did. So easy for you armchair critics to pour scorn. You are the X Factor audience. Off you go and enjoy the X factor and spare those of us who actually work in the industry and understand what blood sweat and tears it takes to train, to sacrifice your childhood and much of your adult life and deliver year on year the kind of extraordinary magic in opera houses and concert halls world wide Anna N does.

  • Florestan says:

    I don’t like the music, but to say that Netrebko is doing a bad job is mean and wrong. Perhaps Norman should improve the quality of his articles and posts, so he wouldn’t have to resort to misleading post headlines to get traffic into his site.

  • Singerbehindthecurtain says:

    The sheer ignorance of some of the comments here is just stupendous. Keep it up Mr. Osborne

  • LewesBird says:

    It might have been interesting to note in the original article, as background, the context around this “vacuous” (dixit Christensen) song. Pakhmutova composed it in the early 70s and, indeed, as one of the more inane commentators above noted, it’s about the Belavezha Primeval Forest on the Polish-Byelorussian border; one of the oldest surviving forests in Europe. So far, so boring.

    But this natural reserve happens to be the place where the Belavezha Accords of 1991 where Russia, Byelorussia and the Ukraine agreed to get rid of the Soviet Union were negotiated and signed.

    In the 28 years thence this song has become — and is indeed widely seen in relevant circles in most post-Soviet spaces — as the unofficial requiem for the Soviet Union.

    So there you have it; some background. Make of it what you want. Whilst I might have views on some of the specious comments made above, it’s probably safest to leave all of that hubris simmer in its own morass.

  • Escamillo says:

    No different from all those celebrated opera singers who do ‘Rule Britannia’ and similar porridge at the proms. There is a long tradition of sentimental musical events in Russia – as in many other countries.

    • LewesBird says:

      This is a very apt comparison indeed. This song is sort of a “Rule Britannia” in its own context. I wonder if R. Christensen would ever dare to call “Rule Britannia” ‘vacuous’ (or even merely ‘jingoistic’) in the pages of the Daily Telegraph — whose readers probably adore that ditty — and hope to still have a job in the morning.

  • esfir ross says:

    “Children of bisons don’t want instinct, Belovezhkaya pushcha.”- fanny lyric. The national park BP was hunting place of Russian czar families. After 1918, as Polish territory was favored hunting place of H. Herring and Himler and other Europian leaders. Place of Nazi German command headquater and hunting for Herman Herring during WWII.

    • Tatiana R. says:

      There is no connection between the two phenomena -this song and your vision, since a creative couple Pakhmutova as composer and Dobronravov as poet have transfered their admiration of this marvel of nature, Belovegskaia Pushcha (Great forest, wildlife reserve with all its animals like European bisons and deer, and 700-800-year old oaks!) to the music and poetry. In late summer 1974, they visited this forest which was unofficial symbol of Belarus, further in 1991, a new dimension, a sort of requiem, has been added to the place. That is way Ms. Netrebko was so emotional singing, and her voice was so cristal and not dark as usually.

  • Lans says:

    Great singing!

  • Sigitas says:

    Normal singing. I’ve listened to it with pleasure.

  • John says:

    It sounds worse like Caballe at 80.

  • Manunju says:

    Creepy music, creepy performers (not including children and orchestra members, most of them had no choice but to be there).
    We have to thank our lucky stars, that other nations besides the Soviet Union did indeed fight Hitler and he them, and so all parts of the world did not end up being Stalin governed zones after WWII.

  • Halbri says:

    AN was emotionally, artistically and technically attuned to the music. Well done, Anna.

  • Manunju says:

    … extremely weird distribution of ‘don’t likes, likes’ here in connection with lots of the comments above… Does indeed look like trolls would be around, even here. Amazing!

  • Máire says:

    Cut out the gossipy berating of musical artists. It’s disgusting!

  • Brigitta Bründlmayer says:

    But normally she is a great singer ! Did she have a cold or was it simply the wrong kind of song?
    I heard her in Wienna and she was superb! And moreover she would never had this price for being the best singer if she was bad I say she had a bad night! Happens to everyone!

  • Tim says:

    Nothing to discuss. She was off pitch. Listen to the original by Pesnyary.

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:


  • Luis Zarate says:

    I love opera, Anna is a talented singer, I’m unfamiliar with the Russian language, to me is that, the language, many years ago I saw and heard speaking that bloody cruel criminal Joseph Stalin, Nikita crushew, just horrible.

  • Ricardo says:

    Although not her greatest performance, Anna’s worst day is still better than many soprano’s best days. Anna has always been phenomenal. At this point in her career she needs not to prove anything.

  • Eddie says:

    I found no problem from her singing. This is NOT an aria but a song. I can say most opera singers will sing as Anna did, low to medium register in normal singing and high register at opera singer. Anna did what she has to do and did a great job.
    This is my first time to hear this song and of course dunno what is singing coz of Russian but this song can make me cry, I love this song, and this version by Anna.

  • Duane says:

    Ms. Netrebko sang this as a ‘folk’ song, in the correct context! She did not sing it with her “operatic” voice, so to speak! It is a beautiful piece of music. She did a fine job, so I really don’t understand the criticism.

  • Gregory Mowery says:

    Leave your snobbery at home. The composer is a beloved fixture of Russian musical popularity. Nice to hear Anna put on the breaks and sing simply. She’s being miked. This is a pop piece written by a pop composer with some light classical touches. Your point of view is that Anna Netrebko sings badly here. And that is patently untrue.

  • David Stevens says:

    Gosh what a lot of vitriol; love her or hate her it’s not World changing. Even the late Maria Callas had her ‘off’ moments

  • Biba says:

    Beautiful! Moving, more than when she sings big arias. I don’t get what you wanted to show here, but I’m happy I clicked on it.

  • Marianna Simpson says:

    Relax people! It’s Netrebko, with her own voice! It’s just a very boring and pompous performance. I’m surprised that Netrebko and Pletnev, two great artists, were putting up with it. And I suspect, Netrebko wasn’t in her best voice either- it feels that she just wanted to get it over with. Yes, it’s not the best of her by any means.

  • esfir ross says:

    Choice of song’s politically wrong timing. Belorussian president Alexander Lukashenko this day turning away from Putin, on his trip to Austria talk to EU. How much Anna know about political events and Belovezhskaya pushcha? Fake emotions.

    • Tatiana R. says:

      First of all, this song is an Alexandra Pakhmutova’s eminent and well-known song, performed during the Gala concert dedicated to her 90-year anniversary, as a part of her creativity work. Nothing more!
      No connection to some modern political events.

  • Fermata says:

    Wow just wow. I loved Netrebko when she first arrived on the opera scene. But from a vocal pedagoge perspective this is what years of unhealthy singing does to the voice. She took on many vocal exhausting roles and after years of shredding there bottom of her range her top is all that is somewhat intact. For those that say this is not an aria, yes you are correct. But an art, aria, or folk song which is what I’m guessing(please correct me if I’m wrong)this is should always have beautiful flowing tone, regardless of the language or genre. If anything this saddens me on such a deep level. Her current techniques has led to jaw tension of just one major problem.This is just so sad. 🙁

  • Mister New York says:

    She looks like Gilda Cruz-Romo from 1970 in this video.

  • Vladislav says:


  • SuzieL says:

    Actually, she was not bad at all, but such ugly music should not have had an airing.

  • Ar says:

    It was not the best song for her voice; but she did great.

  • cym says:

    That clip was for ‘entertainment’ purpose.

    « Art Explains, Entertainment Exploits »
    … from ‘Notes on the Piano’, by Ernst Bacon.

  • sycorax says:

    Well, how to put it? No one denies la Netrebko has a great voice and sometimes sounds amazing. But also no one would say she’s a mental giant. Just on the contrary.

  • I have recorded this song with Belarusian Radio Orchestra when I was 15 and completely untrained, as a winner of the Belarusian National Competition “Krasnye Gvozdziki” (Red Carnations, our national flowers). Here is the Youtube link:

    I LOVE Anna Netrebko! Her voice mesmerizes me more than anybody’s. She is a true artist! But, this particular song is not good for her voice. I am currently a voice and piano teacher, after receiving a Doctorate in Piano Performance, Pedagogy, and Voice Pedagogy, and I must say that this song, however beautiful, is incredibly difficult for most singers. I have been very fortunate to have performed it with ease, and forever grateful to my Mom for saving my only recording of it!

  • Jan says:

    Hilarious and entertaining Write Up! Really though, if you want to be an awesome singer, don’t waste time, get lessons, i recommend
    It really takes you all the way, and i mean it as a semi professional singer, do yourself a favor…..

  • Anna says:

    This is bull shit. You think that people are stupid enough to believe that that is real. You don’t even have the guts to go out and perform in front of those people so don’t start shaming others. Fuck you