Netrebko’s “expressive liberties” make good for Signor Giacomo.

Already considered one of the more beautiful voices of today, not to mention her physical loveliness, Anna Netrebko opens her run as Mimi in Puccini’s “La Boheme” to rave reviews.  It is always exciting when critics rally in support of something well done, especially in a time when high criticism is often at the behest of the performer and production.  Let’s hope that the positive reviews and influx of audience numbers convince Mr. Gelb that we don’t need to get rid of every “traditional” production just because we want to be “cool” and “modern.”  Sometimes it’s the good ol’ stuff that tastes the best, isn’t it?

Here are today’s reviews on “Boheme” and BRAVA NETREBKO for very fine attempts at remaining authentic to this grand composer’s aesthetic style.

The Gang’s All Here: Mimi, Rodolfo, and Zeffirelli.” By Anthony Tommasini (New York Times)

Of this review, the interesting point was this: “But as usual her singing was not flawless. Her approach exposed every slight deviation of pitch. Also true to form, she took great expressive liberties with her singing — sometimes prolonging, sometimes rushing phrases — liberties that the conductor Marco Armiliato was too willing to accommodate.”  (Tommasini).  I ask, what singer out there right now is flawless?  If we expect singers to be flawless, then we expect them to be more than human.  The human voice is never without a slight blemish or imperfection, and it is interesting that one mars the review of what is a potentially great performance, by the expectation of flawlessness.

In addition, Mr. Tommasini pays attention to Netrebko’s “expressive liberties” when what he describes is exactly the aesthetic required of Puccinian cantilena (a word coined by the historical authority on Puccini, Mosco Carner).  The problem is that no one really remembers (or knows) that there is such a thing as Puccinian cantilena, and so when Ms. Netrebko is actually effecting an authentic and accurate aesthetic performance, it is simply referred to as “expressive liberties.”  I might add that if Maestro Armiliato didn’t follow Ms. Netrebko’s “expressive liberties”, then he shouldn’t be conducting Puccini at all.

“Great Artistry at the Met” by James Jordon (New York Post)

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