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Anna Netrebko is coming to Canada at last.
The famed Russian soprano and her husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, are preparing for their Canadian debuts as part of Trio Magnifico, with baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, on Tuesday at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto.
Netrebko and Eyvazov then travel to Calgary for a concert April 30.
“Usually we perform in the United States and we never get any further, but now we are and we’re happy!” the soprano says, smiling.
“It’s a beautiful concert program,” Eyvazov adds.
“There will be lots of Russian music,” Netrebko says of the Toronto show.
And while Russian may be their native language, it isn’t always the easiest for music, according to Eyvazov.
“We speak Russian all our life, but it’s not so easy to sing in. You have to use a completely different kind of singing technique.”
Audiences coming to see Trio Magnifico might pick up on a special chemistry between Netrebko and Eyvazov, who married in December 2015. That chemistry can be clearly heard on Netrebko’s wildly popular Verismo album, released last year through Deutsche Grammophon.
“What we have are matching voices and repertoire we can sing together a lot,” Netrebko says. “It’s good to have lots of engagements together and concerts we can be in.”
The couple is also looking forward to performing with Hvorostovsky.
He had been scheduled to sing with Netrebko in the Metropolitan Opera production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which Canadian fans can see in theatres on Saturday as part of the Live in HD program. But the baritone withdrew from all opera appearances “for the foreseeable future,” according to a release from his management last December.
He was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2015 and performing in staged productions became a challenge, though Hvorostovsky has assured his fans he will “continue to give concerts and recitals as well as make recordings. Singing is my life and I want to continue bringing joy to people worldwide.”
Netrebko says Hvorostovsky had a large hand in shaping the program Toronto audiences will hear on April 25.
“Our choice came from Dmitri’s choices, mostly, because he proposed them,” she says. “He said he would like to sing the arias from the Russian operas and, around that, we started to create our program, too.”
Netrebko’s praise of her longtime colleague is effusive. “I’ve sung with him many times, of course; he’s my big friend and amazing partner.”
“It’s one of my dreams which has come true, to sing with Dima,” Eyvazov adds, using the baritone’s nickname. “Every tenor in the world wants to sing with him. I’m very happy to do that and looking forward to sharing the stage with him. I think it will be a great experience . . . a beautiful experience.”
Eyvazov has made a number of important role debuts the last few years, including in a Los Angeles Opera production of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, conducted by Placido Domingo. Hailing from Azerbaijan, the tenor recently performed in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Verdi’s Don Carlos at the Bolshoi Theatre, but he notes that “it’s important, when you come home from the concert hall or opera, to leave the work there.”
Part of that work includes a source of tension for both critics and fans alike: the debate about traditional vs. modern productions.
Netrebko says there should be a balance between the two styles: a reverence for the old but an embrace of the new as well.
“I think it’s good for theatre to do what the people want to see, especially now when it’s sometimes houses are half-empty and it’s very difficult to sell tickets. But, from the other side, I can understand directors who want to move forward and bring something original and modern, and I think both ways work,” she says thoughtfully.
“It’s just very hard to find a really good director who will really, if it’s a modern director, respect the music, who will make a modern production really interesting and make sense, and look good. Lately it’s become — I’ve said this already in many interviews — all grey, sad productions. I’m kind of tired of it. I want pretty, beautiful things; not only sad and minimalistic, but something else.”
As to the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series, which broadcasts productions to cinemas around the world, Eyvazov says it’s “beautiful to have this opportunity” to expose a global audience to the art form. As an artist though, he notes that “even the beautiful high-definition broadcasts cannot absolutely give you the same emotion, the same feeling you have in the theatre, so if you have a possibility to go to the theatre, you should go.”
Canadian fans who haven’t already snagged tickets to the sold-out Trio Magnifico, or won’t be venturing to New York for Eugene Onegin’s final performance, can see Netrebko live in HD as Tatiana, one of her signature roles, at select Cineplex theatres on Saturday at 12:55 p.m. (Encore broadcasts happen June 3, 5 and 7.) See cineplex.com for details.