With her distinctive fashion sense and robust stage presence, it's hard to imagine Russian soprano Anna Netrebko working as a janitor at Saint Petersburg's historic theater of opera and ballet, The Marinsky. But while studying at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, that's exactly what she did. And, later, when she auditioned for the theatre, conductor Valery Gergiev recognized Netrebko from her previous job and became her vocal mentor. At age 22, Netrebko made her operatic stage debut at The Marinsky as Susanna in "Le nozze di Figaro."
In 1995, at age 24, Netrebko made her American debut at the San Francisco Opera, and in 2002, she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Natasha in its premiere of "War and Peace."
Today, Netrebko's star power is undisputed and she is one of the most in-demand sopranos of our day. This weekend, Netrebko will fly into the valley, between her performances of "La Boheme" with the Chicago Lyric Opera, to grace the stage at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on Monday.
Just a few of the arias to be included in Netrebko's concert are "Tacea La Note," by Verde, Puccini's "In Quelle Trine Morbide" and Giordani's "La Mamma Morta," which many people will remember from the film "The Philadelphia Story."
'A different person'
For more than a decade, Netrebko sang the role of Adina in "Elisir" at major opera houses. It is the sort of light and bright part that brought her to fame.
But, as she recently told David Mermelstein, of the Wall Street Journal, "I'm a different person. I look different and I'm different in my mind. Well, I'm 41 years old - time to grow up. The last two or three years, I was trying to figure out where I'm going. I tried to postpone heavier repertoire. But now I'm saying goodbye to 'inas' (a suffix that often denotes ingenues in opera) and I'm very happy about that."
Netrebko attributes her new outlook to age and motherhood; she gave birth to her first child, a son, Tiago, whose father is the Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott.
"After the baby, I got bigger and I like it," she said. "But it's not only about the way I look. It's just that I'm different. It's good; it's interesting. I'm more serious, more responsible. Of course, when you have a kid, things change."
'Why we are who we are'
Just finishing her role as Tatiana at the Met in Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin," Netrebko will try "Manon Lescaut," Puccini's take on the character, slated for Munich in 2014. In 2016, she is scheduled to sing Elsa in "Lohengrin" in Dresden. She is also interested in exploring the operas and orchestral works of Richard Strauss.
Netrebko's move to heavier parts is a bit of a disappointment for her.
"What I like about the comic roles is that there's plenty of room for you to be happy," she said. "And if you are happy, you are excited, and if you are excited, you can excite the audience. I love it."
With such accolades and devoted fans, one would think that Netrebko would very much be at ease on stage, but that's not so.
"You can never be relaxed, because you always have to be at your best," she admitted. "And you're more scared of opening night because everyone is judging you - plus there are mean critics. Of course it's pressure. But the thing is, we can handle it. That's why we are who we are."