By Jasmine Wilson
Continuing its dazzling fifteenth season on PBS, Great Performances at The Met brings new concerts with opera’s biggest stars. Performing in locations from New York City to Norway, beloved Metropolitan Opera singers present some of their signature arias and duets in an intimate one-hour show. Bask in the sweet melodies of popular arias and discover new gems from the Baroque era to the present. Shot with multiple cameras linked by satellite to a control room in New York City, much of Season 15 is hosted by famed soprano Christine Goerke.
Anna Netrebko in Concert leads season 15 into the summer from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria. After a year spent largely inside, the radiant program warmly reminds audiences of the joy and love naturally experienced outdoors. The internationally renowned soprano seamlessly weaves together Russian songs by Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Tchaikovsky as well as selections by Debussy, Dvořák, Fauré and Strauss. Accompanied by Pavel Nebolsin on piano, the program also features mezzo-soprano Elena Maximova for duets from Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” and more.
This delightful recital is also a perfect opportunity to dive into the rich world of Russian art songs. Netrebko’s masterful performance instantly transports audiences to the countryside, opening with Rachmaninoff’s “Before My Window.” Her expressiveness creates an immersive atmosphere and charms the senses. Listen for the passages that evoke blossoms, which are like a musical metaphor for the many communities gradually reopening and forging new beginnings. Korsakov’s “The lark’s song rings more clearly,” especially fills the heart with inspiration and hope in a moment when many are uncertain about the future.
Korsakov was also known as one of “The Five,” a group of Russian composers committed to developing a school of Russian music, centered in St. Petersburg. The group focused on composing music free from Italian, German or other European forms to create a nationalistic style of music. This contrasts to Moscow-centered composers such as Tchaikovsky, who emphasized their Western European training in their works. Netrebko’s recital highlights both the immense moods and styles within the Russian art song repertory.
At the core of this dynamic program is love, capturing both its beauty and its complexity. Even the piano becomes a character in Debussy’s “Il pleure dans mon Coeur.” The broken chords in the piano accompaniment are like the falling tears of a broken heart. Then songs like Leoncavallo’s “Mattinata” dries our tears and restores our hearts. Listen for the phrase “Where you are, love is born” (translated in the subtitles from Italian). Eventually, you’ll be weeping tears of joy.
This fantastic recital with one of opera’s favorite divas is the perfect way to get your summer fix of classical music. Netrebko’s special and intimate performance revitalizes the soul in a time when many societies are reawakening. Watch Anna Netrebko in Concert premiering Friday, June 18 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).
Check out the complete schedule for season 15 of Great Performances at the Met. Please be sure to check your local listings, as dates and times can vary widely across the country.
Want to learn more about the world-renowned soprano? Check out our Five Fabulous Facts About Anna Netrebko: