In the tradition of such opera luminaries as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Joan Sutherland and Placido Domingo, Netrebko steps away from the operatic stage to create a more personal and intimate album.
According to release notes, "This multifarious collection of short and sparkling pieces allows Netrebko to display both her astonishing voice and charisma to match while highlighting specific memories from her childhood and early career."
Souvenirs includes repertoire from a melange of languages - French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Latin, Czech, Yiddish, Spanish and Russian - and the pieces performed include treasures by Dvorak, Grieg, Carlos Guastavino, Reynaldo Hahn, Offenbach and Richard Strauss, among others.
As the album title suggests, each selection on the disc serves as a certain remembrance, many of which track Netrebko's love affair with the voice and coming-of-age in the opera world. For example, the first piece that the 15-year-old Netrekbo learned as a student was "Solveig's Song" from Grieg's Peer Gynt. Similarly, Kalman's "Heia, in den Bergen," from Die Csardasfurstin (The Gypsy Princess), was the first operetta she saw as a child in her south Russian hometown of Krasnodar. The thrill of that occasion inspired her passion for operetta, and led her to pursue vocal studies.
As in her 2007 Russian Album, in Souvenirs Netrebko introduces her international audience to her native repertoire. "The two Rimsky-Korsakov songs [on Souvenirs] are incredibly popular in Russia, but they only exist with piano accompaniment," says the soprano. "To record them for this album, we had to commission arrangements. It was very important for me that the orchestrations be light and transparent, almost like a good perfume adorning these beautiful but simple melodies - one of them with a delicate oriental fragrance."
The album also features Elina Garanca, the mezzo-soprano hailing from Latvia who made a splash for her portrayal of Rosina in the Met's Jan. '08 production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
Garanca joins Netrebko on several duets, including the famous "Barcarolle" from Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann. On collaborating with conductor Emmanuel Villaume on this album, Netrebko has said, "On every track he asked me to give even more energy!" she says. "I adore that. I love to be pushed and challenged. He's really one of the most helpful musicians I've worked with. I loved how he got Elina and me to sing the 'Barcarolle' with such expression, with what he called 'tremors of pleasure.'"
Also featured on the album are tenor Piotr Beczala (who recently wowed Met audiences as Edgardo in their fall Laucia), boy soprano Andrew Swait, the Prague Philharmonic Choir and the Prague Philharmonia.
For more information and to hear song excerpts, visit Deutsche Grammophon.