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Anna Netrebko Makes Lyric Opera of Chicago Debut Opposite Maltese Tenor Joseph Calleja in La bohème, Opening March 9

“Mimì is one of Ms. Netrebko’s best roles, and she was wonderful.” – New York Times

“[As Rodolfo,] Calleja is glorious throughout.” – Guardian (UK) 

Although Anna Netrebko has sung at nearly all the world’s leading opera houses, prompting Opera News to dub her “diva assoluta del mondo,” there has been one company that until now has been curiously absent from her list: the Lyric Opera of Chicago. All this will change on March 9, when the soprano makes her debut at the Civic Opera House with her signature portrayal of Mimì in La bohème, which she sings for six performances opposite Joseph Calleja’s Rodolfo, in a new-to-Chicago production that offers “plenty of reasons to fall in love with La bohème all over again” (Chicago Tribune).

Under the direction of Louisa Muller, Netrebko and Calleja will head a strong cast, with Elizabeth Futral as Musetta, Lucas Meachem as Marcello, Andrea Silvestrelli as Colline, and Emmanuel Villaume on the podium (March 9–28). The soprano’s Lyric appearances follow the recent Deutsche Grammophon DVD release of her hit performance in La bohème at the 2012 Salzburg Festival, where she starred with Piotr Beczala in a modern-dress staging by Damiano Michieletto. As Opera Today acknowledged,

“Anna Netrebko’s Mimì [was] a star turn if ever there were one. Netrebko truly inhabited the role, both more generally and with particular reference to Damiano Michieletto’s production. … Netrebko relished the contemporary setting and the emphasis upon Mimì as disadvantaged. Her voice was in excellent repair, soaring gloriously above the equally glorious orchestra.”

Her Salzburg success should come as no surprise to those familiar with Netrebko’s Mimì. At the Metropolitan Opera, her “gorgeous lyric soprano proved an ideal fit for the role” (New York Post) and the New York Times observed that, “You don’t often hear Mimì sung with such vivid character and sheer charisma.” 

Gramophone Artist of the Year Joseph Calleja has enjoyed similar rave reviews as Rodolfo. It was after his company role debut at the Met that the Associated Press credited the Maltese tenor with “a voice unlike anyone else on the operatic scene today.” Admiring its “irresistible tenderness,” Associated Press critic Mike Silverman explained: “A rapid vibrato gives his sound an alluring sweetness, and in recent years he has refined his technique so that the quality is consistent throughout his range.” As Rodolfo at London’s Royal Opera House last May, the Guardian reported: “Calleja is glorious throughout,” and The Times observed:

Calleja’s Rodolfo justly won the lion’s share of the ovations. The Maltese tenor stands out in the current crop of singers for his scrupulous musicianship and sweet tone: this is a deeply classy voice, and it hits a sweet spot in Rodolfo’s passionate music, not only riding the throbbing climaxes but daringly scaling down to half-voiced diminuendo. He’s plausible, too, as the fumbling poet with one thing on his mind (hint: it’s not poetry).”

Netrebko: Vienna, Baden-Baden, Salzburg, and the Met’s season-opening gala

After her Lyric run, Netrebko looks forward to making her role debut as Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Vienna State Opera (April 12–22). This Falk Richter staging will reunite her with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, her partner in London, where their concert rendition of the opera’s final scene brought down the house two years ago. It is also as Tatiana that Netrebko will headline her third consecutive season-opening gala for the Metropolitan Opera on September 23, launching a new production by Deborah Warner that boasts a star-studded cast featuring Mariusz Kwiecien and Piotr Beczala (Sept 23 – Oct 19). Before heading to the Met in the fall, Netrebko performs Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden (May 17–26) – the role that galvanized her career at the 2002 Salzburg Festival. Philipp Himmelmann’s new staging will also see her alongside her real-life partner Erwin Schrott as Don Giovanni, with bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni as his reluctant wingman, Leporello.  Also, in August, Netrebko returns to the Salzburg Festival for concert performances in the title role of Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco, with Plácido Domingo as Giacomo (Aug 6–13). 

Calleja heads to Europe for Verdi, Donizetti, and solo gala concerts

Having proved “a thrilling Adorno” at Covent Garden, Calleja looks forward to repeating the role in concert performances of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at the Vienna Konzerthaus alongside Thomas Hampson and Luca Pisaroni (April 13 & 17). This marks the first of the four European Verdi productions he will headline over the coming months. At Frankfurt Opera Calleja makes his role debut as Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera (May 18 – June 23), before undertaking the Duke in Rigoletto (July 17–24) and singing solo in the composer’s Requiem (July 27) at the Munich Opera Festival. Also in Munich, at the Gasteig, the tenor sings Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (July 1 & 4). In concert, meanwhile, the singer looks forward to presenting a sold-out solo gala at Dublin’s National Concert Hall (April 6) and “An Evening with Joseph Calleja” at England’s Grange Park Opera (June 19). 

Further details of the singers’ upcoming engagements follow, and more information is available at the web sites listed below.

Anna Netrebko: upcoming engagements

March 9, 12, 15, 18, 22, & 28; Chicago, IL

Lyric Opera of Chicago (debut)

Puccini: La bohème (Mimì)


March 25; Vail, CO

Vilar Performing Arts Center

“An Evening with Anna Netrebko”


April 12, 15, 18, & 22; Vienna, Austria

Vienna State Opera

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin (Tatiana)


May 17, 20, 23, & 26; Baden-Baden, Germany


Mozart: Don Giovanni (Donna Anna)


Aug 6, 10, & 13; Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg Festival

Verdi: Giovanna d’Arco (title role)



Sept 23, 26, Oct 1, 5, 9, 12, 16, & 19; New York, NY

Metropolitan Opera

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin (Tatiana)



Joseph Calleja: upcoming engagements

March 9, 12, 15, 18, 22, & 28; Chicago, IL

Lyric Opera of Chicago

Puccini: La bohème (Rodolfo)


April 6; Dublin, Ireland

National Concert Hall

Gala Concert


April 13 & 17; Vienna, Austria

Vienna Konzerthaus

Verdi: Simon Boccanegra (Gabriele Adorno)



May 18 & 26, June 1, 21, & 23; Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt Opera

Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (Riccardo)


June 5; Berlin, Germany

Deutsche Oper Berlin

Bizet: The Pearl Fishers (Nadir)


June 19; Hampshire, England

“An Evening with Joseph Calleja”

Grange Park Opera


July 1 & 4; Munich, Germany

Philharmonie Gasteig

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor (Edgardo)


July 17, 20, & 24; Munich, Germany

Munich Opera Festival 2013

Verdi: Rigoletto (Duca)


July 27; Munich, Germany

Munich Opera Festival 2013

Verdi: Requiem

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