Updated!! Check out the new translation of the Anna Netrebko interview with Vogue Russia. Meticulously handled by our fabulous friend Sasha. Thank you Sasha. Now the interview makes much more sense, and those awkward lost in translation type moments have mostly dissappeared.
Recital in New York City, main role at La Scala, a Christmas concert in Moscow – for Anna Netrebko the whole world is not enough
No one has done for our operatic art as much as Anna Netrebko. Not because she is the greatest singer of our time - there are others, and not worse. But because she is the most beautiful singer of our time, the funniest and liveliest. And she is ours.
Big opera singer - Maria Callas until 1953 or Montserrat Caballe nowadays – is a huge mobile audio speaker. She moves onto the stage, opens mouth and sings an aria. Then she moves to another corner and sounds from there.
Anna Netrebko is not thin, but there is nothing monumental in her. She knows how to improvise, trusts her charisma and body and therefore can kick off shoes, if they’re too tight; or lose a Chopard earring on the stage of the Moscow Conservatory - who counts them. Even do a somersault - as in "Don Pasquale" at the Metropolitan Opera. That's what her acrobatics lessons were for at the Palace of Pioneers and School Students of the Krasnodar Region. She also sang in the "Kuban Young Pioneers" choir. And learned to ride a horse. And was "Miss Kuban". Drama club, photography club ... but also wanted to sing - the real soviet action girl.
Gabardine trench, Jean Paul Gaultier; hat, Dior Homme.
We scheduled a meeting at the old hotel "Bristol" in the vicinity of the Vienna Opera, where Anna plays Anne Boleyn in Donizetti - wife of Henry VIII, executed in order to free up the royal bed for Jane Seymour. Tickets are sold out. Those who missed the premiere go and watch "Anna Bolena" on the big screen nearby.
Netrebko to the Viennese is their own: she has had an Austrian passport since 2006. And since last year even the Vienna apartment, seriously connecting her with the wonderful city of opera, coffee and chocolate. Windows facing the Franziskaner became one of the city's sightseeing spots, and, according to the singer, flocks of Japanese tourists regularly take her away in their cameras.
She lives here with her husband, opera singer Erwin Schrott. Despite the German last name, he is a real hot Latino. Schrott was born in Uruguay, but there is share of the Viennese mélange in his blood. Anna did not forget to mention to me that Eric decides everything in the family, and she, well, gets busy in the kitchen. Nevertheless, from a professional point of view, she is the motor in their tandem. Although Erwin is by all means not a ballast. A beautiful baritone voice, a great actor, temperamental and witty man. He is very suitable for Anna.
Leather and polyester trench, Jean Paul Gaultier; cotton skirt, Wolford; leather shoes, Christian Louboutin;
gloves, Georges Morand; tights, Calzedonia; earrings in white gold with pearls and diamonds, Chopard.
They have a young son. Anna gave birth to him three years ago and five months after the birth was already singing in Mariinsky’s "Lucia di Lammermoor." She regained form remarkably quickly. And although her voice does not sound as ringing girlish soprano, as before, it is approaching significant roles of seasoned women. [She] dreams of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" and "La Forza del Destino" and Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut". Go look for the best Manon of our time.
Anna looks incredibly beautiful in high heels, in a green dress with luxurious Chopard earrings. Hair is black, eyes shine, chest breathes
- There is a big lie in this production - I say to her.
- What is it? - anxiously asks Netrebko.
- This Henry the Eighth of yours is an ass! How could he stop loving such a woman? I do not understand!
- Well, not quite - Anna laughed. – The other woman is also a beauty.
Elina Garanca sings the role of Seymour - she is indeed really pretty, but the Lithuanian loses in the temperament to the the one from Kuban, blonde to brunette.
- But why cut your head? Some kind of savagery.
- The story is vivid and clear - says Netrebko. - There was such love that it turned into hatred. And he was even suspecting her all this time! There is very little one can show in the bel canto opera, because there isn’t much physical action. Maybe to raise an eyebrow, but not more. How would you explain the relationship with brother, and the relationship with page? And then of course, [with] Lord Percy.
In "Boleyn", Netrebko actually has a completely different opponent - not the lady-in-waiting Seymour, and not the singer Garanca. Tackling Anne, she contests with Maria Callas, who memorably sang this role in the 1957 Visconti production at La Scala. Of course, director Genovese - is not Visconti, and Netrebko – not really Callas, not the least because she is alive and, God willing, even happy. Have we lost the ability to simply rejoice in the fact that a beautiful woman with a wonderful voice steps onto the stage in front of us, and not a whale-sized prima donna?
- Well, we are all rather big - sighs Anna. – You have to get the voice from somewhere ... Opera singers have very voluminous chest. We are like athletes. I can run around and sing. I can jump and sing. I can stand on my head and sing. But this role is one of the most difficult ones for me. It is very dramatic, with a huge range - I think I'm losing two kilos during each performance.
Leather and polyester trench, Jean Paul Gaultier; gloves, Georges Morand.
I am surprised - where does such torment come from? I somehow think that it is easy for her and that she is able to transform the opera into a laid-back and fun art.
- I have a very serious profession. And those, who think I'm just performing concerts in beautiful dresses and then take off shoes, think it's very simple. A big mistake. It's not what I look like, but how I sound. Our main burden is that we cannot hear ourselves. At least in ballet, they can look in the mirror to see what they do. We do not have that.
- But doesn’t the voice come back at you?
- Depends on the acoustics in a hall. Sometimes the voice does not return at all. So we must learn to sing, not knowing what you are doing, not hearing yourself. [It is necessary to] not be afraid.
There are very few things Netrebko is afraid of and it seems she is not planning to exploit the same vocal character. I remember how we made a bet whether she could handle Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, especially after, to the consternation of the Salzburg Festival Intendant, she abruptly canceled the performance. Everyone thought she got frightened. But she kept her promise pretty adequately in Moscow soon thereafter, at the Great Hall of the Conservatory. Turns out, the Baroque repertoire is also possible for her. [She also] presented a solo recital of Russian romances, proving to the public that she is a great chamber singer as well.
And a different story altogether – performance with Philip Kirkorov of the song "The Voice". Oh, what happened afterwards! But she did not step back. Yes, the song was not fresh. "I always sing what everyone have long been singing" – Netrebko calmly parries. Yes, the most unchained singer of the operatic stage appeared timid on the stage of Jurmala [pop festival], like a pioneer girl at a striptease show. Yes, the words left much to be desired: "Fly, love, I hear your voice ...Fly, and my life flies with you. " On the other hand, most classical opera arias have little poetry too.
- We sang, received the "Golden Gramophone" and "Song of the Year". Everyone criticized me terribly: why, what for? Simply because I wanted to. I was curious: [I] had an encounter with this [pop/crossover] world, looked around. I showed myself. I looked at them.
- How was it?
- Yeah... It’s not only that they sing a song that has a range of five notes. They are lip-synching. They open their mouth. At all these concerts, during all TV programs. Wow! What a life!
Cashmere coat, leather boots, gloves and belt, all Hermès; glasses, Prada; tights, Calzedonia; a gold watch with diamonds, amethyst and enamel, Chopard.
She is not planning to repeat this experience, but I remember that moment when everyone was going to lynch Kirkorov for a fight with director Yablokova, Anna was one of the few who tried to protect him.
I asked Anna about her contract with the Chopard jewelers. I am surprised that she wears real jewelry on stage. They jingle, they should be protected...
- Sometimes they jingle. And sometimes they even fall. Remember when an earring flew off in Moscow? But I love to wear them to concerts. I was singing in Germany, I wore a necklace worth about three million? Pretty things that only queens get to wear. Why not? People need to see them. I have to look good - the public expects this. I would not wear them for a walk with my son.
- What is the name of your boy?
- Tiago. It is a Portuguese name. A second name - Arua – is Indian... I wanted something so unusual, why not? Especially since I’ll give him my husband's last name. He has my last name for now. Tiago Arua Netrebko. Sounds quite eerie. But he will be a Schrott.
- I am a little sorry for your husband. Because when you live [apart from] your wife in different places - it promises joyful reunions. And when you live away from your baby – now this is absolutely intolerable.
- But we live together! Just occasionally go away, because he has his own work. And then he really misses us. Erwin is a family man and loves Tisha.
- That’s what I call Tiago.
Anna says that with the birth of their son she started to travel much less, and to hate long-haul flights and because of this, for example, has never visited husband’s homeland, Uruguay. "We had free time in the winter, and we were planning to go, but I pleaded with him – I imagined this flight... jetlag again ... And said: "I cannot! Have mercy! "
She freely says that she is lazy and wants to live without lessons and rehearsals just for a bit. To sit around with friends, to see her father, to take her child to Prater carousels. Actually, she flaunts the fact that she works fast. She learned "Anna Bolena" in a month. [She] usually learns faster. "Iolanta" took a week.
- But the rehearsals - for seven hours a day. Over and over and over again. And you find errors, and ...
- You cannot eat, you cannot drink ...
- Everyone is different. There are some crazy people. They don’t wash their hair, they do not talk for a week. That is all nonsense, of course. For example, I do not go out in the sun if I have to sing, I do not go to the sauna. I drink alcohol, but not before a performance, at least a day before - it does not affect me at all. I eat everything except onion and garlic, because I have to be in close contact with colleagues. I eat right, but will sometimes agree for a burger - delicious. Sometimes I cook myself.
- What do you cook? Cabbage pies?
- Thank God, I don’t know how to bake pies. Because if I begin to eat pies, I cannot stop. I am from Krasnodar. I made meatballs yesterday, salad, chicken soup with vegetables.
In the mornings, she cooks porridge for her son, although she frankly admits that she has no strength to play with him after rehearsals in the evenings. "Really, am I still able play with toys? But he always sleeps close to me, so there is contact." Netrebko says Tiago Arua loves construction sets - "everything that moves interests him a lot. Maybe he’ll become an engineer or a physicist. It’s true that he also likes my shoes. He sometimes takes out my colorful - red, purple - shoes before bedtime and looks at them. "
I immediately catch myself also looking at her shoes, bright Christian Louboutin, iridescent green dress – there’s so much provocation, but a lot of pleasure as well.
- I hate to dress boringly - says Anna. – I am from Krasnodar! I love color, good clothes. I did not have toxicosis during pregnancy. The only time I felt like vomiting was when I went into my closet and saw all gray and black things. I felt sick. I bought a lot of colorful clothing and was walking around as bright as I could the entire pregnancy. Ever since then I have a negative attitude toward pale clothes and shoes. I won’t even pick them with my hands!
We could chat more, but she is due for her photo shoot. I regretfully turn off the tape recorder. Cossack and Gypsy by blood, she passionately gets everything she lacked in her childhood in Krasnodar. Roles, engagements, travels, romances, apartments in Vienna and New York, magazine photo shoots. Anna is the perfect glamorous character precisely because she seems totally natural. Like a sensitive tool, she answers the questions exactly as you would like them, does not filter words - she is not stingy, there’s enough for everyone. She has a happy manner of a loved woman, next to whom everyone feels good.
Photo: Peter Rigaud. Style: Alex Aikiu. Hairstyles: Georgios Tsiogkas / Loox Agency. Make-up: Thomas Lorenz / Perfect Props. Photographer Assistants: Stephanie Del Monte, Katharina Zwettler, Florian Heske. Assistant Stylist: Nina Kepplinger.
The editors thank Hotel Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom for assistance in organizing the photo shoot.