Sempre Libera

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko is the belle of today's operatic ball, and she's certainly a classical artist with a lot of mainstream appeal.

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko is the belle of today's operatic ball, and she's certainly a classical artist with a lot of mainstream appeal. Her second solo disc, ably accompanied by Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, visits some of the touchstones of the repertoire. These include selections from Verdi's "La Traviata" and "Otello," Bellini's "La Sonnambula" and "I Puritani," Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" and Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro" from "Gianni Schicchi." But does Netrebko live up to all the "It" girl hype? Certainly, these arias showcase her talents, which include a lot of lovely tonal color, sweet lyricism, thoughtful character portrayal and confident attack of the notes. But "Sempre Libera" is not flawless: Netrebko is clearly not quite comfortable at the bottom of her register, and occasionally, she isn't in full control of her voice. All the same, it's exciting to watch a gifted singer mature and develop, and this album offers a chance to see Netrebko's artistry evolve.—AT