Dashing Diva: Anna Netrebko
The world’s most celebrated female opera singer.
Anna Netrebko by Ruven Afanador
It’s a rainy Friday morning in Austria, but, the bad weather conditions don’t dampen the flamboyant style of Russian opera diva Anna Netrebko. She arrives with a huge smile on her face and a pair of bright orange sunglasses resting casually on her head, as if to challenge the storm that delayed her arrival. A sight for sore eyes, she wears a colourful silk trouser suit complemented by an orange patent leather “Medusa” clutch. Very few can pull off such a bright look in style and Anna is certainly one of them. When we ask who designed her look, she replies it was Versace with a complacent smile. Needless to say, her look is confident and characterises who she is.
Redifining The Image of an Opera Star
Over the past years Netrebko has redefined what it means to be an opera star. With a truly unique voice, as well as an alluring personality and stage presence, she became the first classical musician to enter “Time” magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She even achieved superstar status when one of her albums went to No.1. in a pop chart.
In person Netrebko is refreshingly honest, saying she never reads reviews about herself. Actually, one would be hard pressed to find a bad review on her performances. She has come a long way since 2002, when she sang Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni,” her first major role at the Salzburg Festival. The conductor at the time was Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Since then she has toured the world’s opera circuit and is always looking for new roles to challenge herself. With age comes wisdom and the 45-year-old admits she is looking to explore more mature roles. “I don’t want to keep playing young girls; this is less interesting to me now.”
When Costumes, Languages and Love Come into Play
Stage costumes play a major role in a performance and one of the most elaborate dresses Netrebko ever wore was for Puccini’s opera “Manon Lescaut” performed this summer at the Salzburg Festival. The black dress boasts a hem measuring 30 metres in length. It consists of three different layers of fabric: 40 metres of stone-grey silk, 60 metres of silk organza and 120 meters of tulle. "The middle-size crystals were optimal for this dress. Most of the crystals used are Swarovski crystals of a hematite shade, with black diamond crystals providing random accents,” says Jan Meier, Director of the costume and make-up department at the Salzburg Festival. He designed the dress for the “Manon Lescaut” performances himself. It took 120 hours to attach all the crystals to the dress.
“Can I tell you a big, bad secret?” Netrebko asks in a beguiling manner, “I love the German language... but I find it difficult to sing in German.” She prefers to sing in Italian and says she must love a role in order to sing it. “If I didn’t love my role I wouldn’t perform it... I would do something else.” She felt an affinity for “Turandot” and the recording of the opera’s key aria is on her new CD, Verismo, which was released on September 2, 2016. “This CD recording took almost two years,” Netrebko admits, but the result, including the stunning cover of Anna wearing a dramatic crown, was well worth it.
Born in 1971 in Krasnodar, Russia, Netrebko studied vocal performance at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Since then she has appeared in all of the world’s leading opera houses. In addition to her operatic appearances, she is also in demand as a concert artist sharing the stage with artists such as Plácido Domingo. This summer, her husband, Yusif Eyvazov, sang the role of Renato Des Grieux by her side. How is it to work with him? “Lovely,” she admits. “I am very proud of him.” While she has been performing all over the world, she has been to famous concert halls as well as historic outdoor venues, such as the Beiteddine Festival in Lebanon in 2015. When asked about her impression of Lebanon she was enthusiastic. “ I loved it, especially the food... wonderful!”
On a personal level, it is clear Netrebko never forgets her own humble background and supports several charitable organisations, including SOS-Kinderdorf International and the Russian Children’s Welfare Society. She is also a global ambassador for Chopard jewellery. “I would never have thought I could go so far,” she says.
Anna Netrebko is the winner of numerous awards and honours. Musicalamerica.com voted her Singer of the Year. She has received a Classical BRIT Award as Singer of the Year and Female Artist of the Year.