Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A Review of Netrebko's Videoclips from the DVD "The Woman, The Voice"

I'm going to be untypically harsh here, but I can't attempt to like modernized opera and remain nice at the same time.

Anna Netrebko is not one of my favourite singers, but she's far from bad and she's nice to look at. Especially in a videoclip. That's what I thought when I was downloading purchasing her DVD. Upon seeing the screenshots, I thought it would be interesting.

As I'm not interested in Ms.Netrebko reveling in talking about how she loves shopping in boutiques, I kept fast-forwarding to the videoclips, scattered on the whole length of the film. I quite liked the first one, Musetta's waltz. You could argue that it doesn't retain the spirit of the aria, but none of the videoclips here does. Musetta's waltz video is elegant, even though it somewhat lacks invention (what operatic videoclips don't?). I was especially annoyed by the switching to the black&white shots, but I liked the way she and the driver exchanged glances in the beginning *wink*! I guess this balancing on the edge of cliché is a match with Puccini.

However, the videoclips that followed were not short only of invention and originality, but also a slightest hint of style, pretending to be artistic. The diva is running/standing/lying around, with no further ideas to it. Vincent Paterson, the director, obviously thought that "the woman and the voice" is enough for a videoclip. He stayed half way between the traditional, where not so many things happen and you are left to enjoy beautiful music accompanied by beautiful pictures (as Sumi Jo's clip), and the progressive. He managed the almost impossible: modern opera clips which are boring.

The second clip was the Jewel Song from Faust. Ms.Netrebko in three very different settings for no apparent reason doesn't do anything but puts on jewels and adores herself in the many mirrors. Isn't that enough? Eh, not for me, especially when the settings are so kitschy.

A sparkle of hope came with the Don Giovanni clip, even though it immediately reminded me of the walking-talking trees in the Russian fairy-tale film Morozko (Jack Frost) and Titus. Unfortunately, the director again did nothing about it, so "the woman" is left there among the dancing trees, only opening her mouth to "the voice" and moving arms. Plus, there are several moments when the camera is so bad it's attracting attention.

La Sonnambula clip is so eurotrash it's almost useless to analyze it. The director knew no better way how to make it interesting than "the weirder, the better." It's tasteless, pointless, but at least not boring.

The Song to the Moon clip has been critically acclaimed, even by people who didn't like the other videos, but the reason escapes me. I'm amazed that so few people are capable of understanding the fact that Rusalka (opera) is a delicate and tender tragedy. The very *point* of it is that Rusalka (character) has got pure heart. There's a certain naïveté in her, but also strength: she sacrifices everything, is betrayed, but does not betray her love. Netrebko's approach to the aria is shallow every time, but when accompanied by a videoclip where she sings opens her mouth lying on a floating mattress, in a nouveau-riche style, with a giant moon behind her, it's just making fun of Dvořák and his depth. Otherwise, the clip is well structured, its only problem is that it's just as superficial as Ms.Netrebko's interpretation. Rusalka coming to the Prince when he's having a shower?

Well, I'm sure everybody who reads this review, including myself, will love the videoclips as a result. It's the expecting-a-disaster effect. If you like eurotrash productions and/or adore Anna Netrebko, I'm sure you will enjoy this DVD. However, it's almost a pity that she wasn't given the opportunity of having a documentary like those about Rolando Villazón or Elina Garanča. What actually saddens me the most is the wasted potential. Some clips look good at first sight, but the director let it all be as if unfinished, just the basic concept with no idea.

...But the pics look nice, don't they? Click to enlarge:
Musetta being neglected

The black&white inside life of the poor Musetta, who is neglected by her husband, which led her to having an affair with the driver. Which opera is this from?

Three snapshots from The Jewel Song, no comment

It looks beautiful, pity there's no meaning to it.

♪♫ Non mi dir ♪♫

La sonnambula. Flirting with an old man with pigtails on his beard. You should know that on the table there's a cake in the shape of a female leg.

Poor Bellini


I bet you didn't believe me the one about the shower!

Unfortunately, 90% of the time of the DVD we see just this:


  1. I think this reviewer sums up modern opera singing and operatic production very well: all things superficial, affectations divorced from truthfulness, artifice merely for the sake of artifice.

  2. I think it DOES depend a lot on the producer though. As an example, her Traviatta is not that without a fault, but quite an experience.
    As for Anna, I can easily forgive her for overlooking the producer's taste (in the above example) for her unquestionable voice, kindness and down-to-earthness.