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Reviews: Anna Netrebko - Sempre libera

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Review by Allen November 3, 2007 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Combining Anna Netrebko and Abbado, you may expect a magic or a fire bon-bon, expecially when Anna is singing "Sempre Libera". Indeed I read too many reviews acclaiming exactly this. But as I am diving into this SACD, nothing happened, and as a matter of fact, Abbado's orchestra ruined the whole show, or maybe I shall blame on the SACD sound that reveals too much of the lean and mean, low-budget performance from Mahler Chamber Orchestra?

I am not sure which one. Or maybe there is something wrong with my ears, as I actually read some Amazon reviews acclaiming a perfect orchestra support.

It is almost sounding like it is a minimum set of orchestra, and I can hear each one of the instruments in play, but the trouble is: there are just so few of them. The experience almost has nothing to do with an opera, rather a chamber music setting?

Anna's voice is superb, warm and natural in the SACD mode (5.1 surround or stereo), her "Sempre Libera" is almost effortlessly close to perfect, and her "mio babbino caro" is also sensational, though her voice may be a little bit too dark for the comic nature of "Gianni Schicchi". It is in "Otello", she really shows her color in her rich vocal expression.

But again, all these efforts are not supported by Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Each note from orchestra reminds me of a small orchestra inappropriately equipped. It is just sad and unbelievable for DG to bring out such a product.

4 stars for Anna's performance and 4 for the SACD sound quality (really, you can hear every instruments and thus reveal how small the orchestra really is, and obviously, the cause of the failure. ), 1 for Abbado's directing or orchestra.

It may be interesting to compare the CD layer with SACD layer playback for this peculiar CD, because this is the first case that I have seen where the CD sonic is actually sounding better than SACD.

Sound volume: in both surround and stereo SACD mode, the sound volume is very small. Traditionally, both DG and Decca's operatic recording tend to have a lower sound volume, but this is not what I am complaining here. Switch to CD layer, the sound is about 20% loader. For a case like this, it is almost definitely an engineering issue.

Sound detail: There are apparently more bass and reverberant mixing in CD layer, Anna's voice is harsher and orchestra is noticeable lumped together to appear as larger and reverberate loader. SACD sound obviously is much richer and more detailed when sound volume is set the same for comparison. But the weakness of the orchestra, when many digital postprocessing trick is turned off, immediately becomes apparent and not acceptable, thanks to SACD's detailed revelation.

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