At the risk of beginning to look like a fan-zine, I would like to pass on a summary of an interview with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon broadcast on the Oesterreichische Rundfunk in November. The interview took place before the Friends of the Wiener Staatsoper. Anna spoke in English, Rolando in German.
The interview begins and ends with excerpts from the Salzburg La Traviata. There are other excerpts throughout the interview, including an excellent aria by Rolando from Don Carlo. He is showing me that I have underestimated him. Many of the excerpts are from not yet released recordings.
The announcer explains that before this she was just Anna Netrebko--now after La Traviata she has become The Netrebko. He tells her of how proud they are to have her as a citizen. She explains that she is learning German and loves Austria.
Rolando explains that his real name is Rot--Rolando Rot--and that he speaks such good German because his ancestors were German, and he attended a German school for over 10 years in Mexico. His German Ur-gross mutter is still alive.
[They are both so totally charming that my summary is rather a waste. I can translate printed text, but to translate from spoken words an interview that lasts over an hour is too hard for me.]
Anna explained that in Russia operetta is the favorite form of musical. She was always compelled to the stage from a very young age and preferred to play a princess. Rolando denied that he also wished to be a princess. His half of the interview is very silly. He also loved the theater from a young age, and his favorite was Don Quixote, that he learned all the songs from Man of La Mancha. He once played as part of a clown duo that included an intelligent clown and a stupid clown. Naturally, he played the stupid clown. He explains that Placido Domingo was his hero, that he listened to all of Placido’s crossover albums. He then proceeded to do an imitation of a duet between John Denver and Placido Domingo, switching voices back and forth. So now we know why he seems to sound like Placido.
At 15-17 she started to see operas at the Marinsky Theater, including Otello. She thought, “That is something for me. I want to be able to perform like that.” She is bored with her cleaning lady story, but points out this was in 1991, a terrible time for people in Russia. The singers she listened to were Callas, Sutherland and Freni.
Rolando tells that Anna helped him with his Russian in Eugene Onegin. He admits he doesn’t know what he’s singing, but she says he’s very talented. He in turn has “helped” her with Spanish. She calls him a bastard and explains that she would say things he told her to say, and people’s eyes would grow large.
Anna tells of studying 15 lessons with Renata Scotto who taught her bel canto technique. She says that learning is an endless process. She was taught always to sing with a full voice.
Rolando feels that after achieving maturity, it has been important to make his way alone. “I must take responsibility in my own hands. Then comes the individuality.” From 12-18 Placido was his idol, but “I don’t try to be a second Domingo.”
They ask her about Lulu [this refers to the role of Lulu from Berg's opera Lulu]. She says she hopes one day she will do it. She also aspires to sing Puccini’s Manon Lescaut.
For Rolando the dream role is the one he sings now. At 14 he dreamed of Tales of Hoffmann. Then his dream came true and he sang Hoffmann at Covent Garden.
Anna speaks about her Russian soul. "We like to swim in the sad mood. Anyone likes this." Rolando makes her as crazy as him. She thanks her musical godfather, Valery Gergiev. To show her Russian soul they play a track from the Russian Album.
They are unbelievably charming. I am imagining my eyes growing large. And laughing.