[NOTE: This entry has been updated (1) as of 3:50 PM Eastern on 18 Nov. See below.]
We're not known for going bonkers over opera singers. In fact, they're largely a matter of indifference to us. But every so often one rivets our attention because of something extraordinary about his or her already extraordinary gift. Nilsson did, for obvious reasons. Ditto Pavarotti and Sutherland, and ditto Fleming who for pure beauty of sound has got to have the most beautiful voice ever to have graced the opera stage. And then there's Anna Netrebko. With her, it's the whole package that makes her already extraordinary gift extraordinary. That plush, rich, deep-burnished soprano, never mind she can't trill like a Sutherland or Sills, coupled with acting skills, both vocal and physical, seen maybe once a generation or two in an opera singer, and of course a striking beauty of face and figure seen almost never in an opera singer (although she needs to lose some
20 30 pounds or so more of the weight she gained during her recent pregnancy). The totality of that package has quite rightly made her not only an opera superstar, but a pop-culture one as well; so much so, that CNN has featured her on its Revealed series.
Since the Cinderella-like beginning of her career, the Russian diva has charmed audiences at major opera houses across the world, including New York's Metropolitan Opera, Milan's Scala and London's Royal Opera House. Along the way, Netrebko's charm has helped her build a celebrity status rivaling that of a pop star. The 39-year-old soprano has her own music videos and is a global ambassador for luxury jeweler Chopard, while Playboy magazine has placed her in its "sexiest babes of classical music" list.RTWT here.
Update (3:50 PM Eastern on 18 Nov): Knowing in what high esteem we hold the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, a reader asks how we could have left her off our list of singers who "rivet[ed] our attention because of something extraordinary about his or her already extraordinary gift." Well, apart from the fact that the list was hardly comprehensive but merely by way of example, the artistry and genius of LHL was of a different order entirely from the four singers we used by way of example (Nilsson, Pavarotti, Sutherland, and Fleming), and her inclusion in that list would, to our mind, have been inappropriate and very much out of place. As we thought would have been clear, all the singers in that list riveted our attention because of the spectacular quality of their vocal instrument alone. Not so the case of LHL. She riveted our attention because of the sensitive, deeply affecting way she used her absolutely first-rate but unspectacular instrument; ergo, the inappropriateness of including her among the four singers in that by-way-of-example list.