Posted: 12/04/2008


Domingo, Netrebko & Villazon: Three Stars in Vienna

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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Domingo, Netrebko & Villazon: Three Stars in Vienna
By Elaine Hegwood Bowen

Tenors Placido Domingo and Rolando Villazon join soprano Anna Netrebko in an incredible evening of highlights from favorite operatic works, such as The Merry Widow, Land of Smiles and El Gato Montes.

Presented by Thirteen/WNET New York in high definition, the opera greats are led by noted French conductor Bertrand de Billy, as he’s directing the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Lighthearted romance and sparkling performances were so prominent on the starlit stage of the Schonbrunn Summer Palace, an arena filled with such beauty, that I lost myself in the surroundings, while watching the performances.

Each performer calls Vienna, which is known as the music capital of the world, home; and it seems singly and together the trio was glad to be performing “the music that keeps the town moving in three-quarter time” on familiar ground.

Thunder and Lightning Polka by Johann Strauss II was an uplifting selection performed by the orchestra alone to open up the Great Performances episode, which will air on PBS December 5 at 10 p.m. ET. The cymbal crashes were magnificent in this number.

Next, Netrebko did a Gypsy number called Heia, My Home is in the Mountains, from the Gypsy Princess. This opera is the first that Netrebko ever saw as a little girl, the narrator says, and it’s the inspiration for her singing career.

When a girl form the mountains falls in love, she gives her heart, and Netrebko eased slowly into this number for a few minutes and then delved quickly into the lyrics, even doing a little dance in her bright, red gown with matching gold and red head wrap.

Next, Domingo, the “most popular composer of the silver age,” sang Girls Were Made to Love from Paganini by Franz Lehar. He sang with such depth and feeling, I’m sure his mind wandered to years gone by and the different loves of his life. The orchestra was in fine form as the two seemed to lead each other throughout the duration of the song.

The setting at the Schonbrunn Summer Palace made the performances that much more breathtaking, as Villazon, with his thick, black tresses and eye lashes, sang Yours is My Heart Alone from Lehar’s Land of Smiles.

The Great Performances collection of numbers has been coined a “welcome reminder of the glittering, lost world of operetta.” The genre (first cousin to the zarzuela of Spain) is a precursor to today’s modern musical and once dominated the world’s stages, thanks to “light music” composers like Lehar, Strauss and Leo Delibes.

Domingo and Netrebko perform a nice Words Forbidden from the Merry Widow, where Netrebko seems to tease Domingo at some points, before they bask in each other’s glow, while dancing together.

The Maidens of Cadiz or Les filles de Cadix by Delibes is performed by Netrebko, as she flounces around the stage, with a sweet sway of her hips. She seems to have so much fun enjoying the piece, and she puts so much body language into the number. Her flirtatious stylings are so enticing, as if the maidens could get anyone they chose, just by singing this number.

The trio performs other numbers, which include Perhaps Love and The Rose and the Nightingale, among others, for the sold-out audience.

Domingo, Netrebko & Villazon: Three Stars in Vienna was recorded in the Austrian capital on June 27, 2008. Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers and PBS.

For the best seat in the house, tune in to Domingo, Netrebko & Villazon: Three Stars in Vienna Friday, December 5, on your local PBS station, beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

Visit Great Performances Online at for additional information about this telecast or other Great Performances programs.


Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a veteran public relations and journalism professional and former journalism professor. She’s publicist for her daughter, Hip-Hop artist Psalm One. A native Chicago South Sider, Elaine was a recent University of Maryland Bio Ethics, Health Disparities & Clinical Trials Fellow and winner of a Black Press Messenger Award.

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