Netrebko’s back and in top form in Met’s “Elixir”
Anna Netrebko returned to the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore in radiant form after a bout with the flu forced the superdiva to cancel the run’s first two performances. Perhaps Wednesday’s Russian song recital at Le Poisson Rouge helped tone up the voice.
Netrebko has been moving carefully into heavier repertoire, with a well-received Verdi album and solid performances as Leonora in Il Trovatore, and will take on the formidable role of Lady Macbeth in June. Yet the voice retains enough flexibility and suppleness for a full-bodied interpretation of the flirtatious and confident Adina, and Netrebko’s bel canto arsenal still includes perfect staccatos, clean two-octave cadenzas, and a few lovely diminuendos.
The soprano’s rhythmic sense is more refined that ever, and she handles passagework with such luscious lyricism (especially in the second act’s sensuously delivered “Prendi, per me sei libero”) that it seems pointless to quibble over the occasional smeared coloratura triplet.
In “Chiedi all’aura lusinghiera,” Adina’s first act duet with her hapless suitor Nemorino, Netrebko’s dark-hued voice paired well with Ramon Vargas’s warm, somewhat hooded tenor, and both artists showed good-natured charm and comic timing along with vocal plushness that etched the filigree attractively. Vargas sounded smoother than on opening night, ascending with fine control in the opening “Quanto è bello, quanto è caro,” and his second act showstopper, “Una furtiva lagrima,” was especially poised and ardent.
Nicola Alaimo’s Belcore was no more resonant or appealing than on opening night, but as the quack Doctor Dulcamara, dispenser of the eponymous Love Potion, Erwin Schrott is delightfully wacky, off in his own Jack Sparrow world of twitchy moves, whistling sibilants, and flamboyant double takes. Schrott’s voice is undistinguished but carries handsomely in the house, and his duets with Adina were especially spirited, both artists nimbly capturing the exuberance of “Una tenera occhiatina.”
Netrebko’s lithe physical characterization and personal charisma made the most of Bartlett Sher’s staging, which keeps Adina twirling and weaving around the stage, and she wisely ditched the ridiculous top hat, part of Adina’s odd lion-tamer get-up, after a few minutes.
L’Elisir d’Amore runs through Feb. 1. metoperafamily.org