As Alex and I left Saturday evening's Rigoletto chez Met (yes Sieglinde, we were both there...), Alex said to me: "She is not just an opera hot face. Netrebko has the goods. And she delivered them. To me."
I am inclined to heartily agree. Her voice is just dark enough to be rich and seductive, but manages to never lose its appealing sweetness. I found this to be true throughout her range and throughout the evening.
That said, what strikes me most about her performance on Saturday evening is the incredible level of control she seems to have over her instrument. Whether folded in the arms of her father, laying flat on her back in a burlap sack, or flitting about the stage with the potentially insane Rolando Villazon, 'Trebs delivers the goods. And fully commands them. I guess what I am trying to say is that this woman seems to take breath support/control to wholly new heights. And she has an incredible stage presence to boot. She was, without question, the brightest point of the evening.
Villazon, as the fickle and, er... compact object of her affections (and a good bit of literal and often awkward pawing) turned in a reliable, energetic, focused, if not overwhelming performance. He did't fully deliver the goods in Act I. Some warming up was in order. But by the time the impressive and virtuosic Act II opener rolled around, he had hit his stride--and maintained it throughout. Upper registers were, in places, not as comfortable and bright as I'd hoped for...but the notes were there, and there was little doubt he was going to deliver them.
The chemistry between the two of them sometimes ventures into the embarrassingly amusing. There is a terrific paw-fest in Act I Scene II that is reminiscent of kitties in a pet store window. Villazon repeats it later, with a full-on tongue attack on that poor mezzo (we'll call her Carmen) singing opera's most thankless role in act III.
I don't have a lot to say about Guelfi. He turned in a solidly sung and soulfully acted Rigoletto. I am giving him my nod of approval. The relationship between Gilda and Rigoletto was far more potent than Gilda/Duke in this particular performance.
The throngs of men singing some of Verdi's most exciting choral writing was a highlight of the evening. This, combined with Asher Fisch' delightful willingness to let the Met orchesta fully unleash the hounds, made for some pretty damn exciting passages. It was terrific to watch him encourage full-on emoting from our celestial balcony box location.
The Saturday night tourist/date/prom(?) audience was a bit unruly (Colonel Chatty Riff-Raff next to us in box 3, for example) but hugely responsive to this highly anticipated season premiere.
Now, one thing to note regarding the ovations...little Rolando came out, took his bow...and then put his hands in the air and BECKONED THE AUDIENCE TO CHEER LOUDER. I kid you not. Natch, the audience responded and cheered like crazy. What happened next was my favorite part of the whole evening: The little dude, basking in the glory he only moments before demanded, HUGGED HIMSELF in congratulatory pride. It was so freaking ludicrous you had to love it.
Breaking it down: Those of you going on Tuesday should expect a thoroughly enjoyable, riff-raff free, paw-filled, Carmen-licking, tenor hugging, chorus wailing, lightning flashing, Fisch emoting, soprano dying evening of pure operatic bliss. Do fill us in.