I was watching the Met’s I Puritani last night (of which more later). Their Elvira in this performance was Anna Netrebko, and one of the not-quite-musical aspects of the performance that I noticed was that she is one of those singers whose face never seems at all disturbed by the physical process of singing – she always looks pretty, no matter the demands of the music. Perhaps she is lucky with muscle structure or something.
But of course I am not the only person ever to have noticed this. This DVD is from a live broadcast, and the half-time interview with Netrebko was conducted by Renée Fleming. One of the questions that Fleming asked Netrebko was about this very thing, how she avoids distorting her face. Netrebko’s response was simply that she knows the camera is there, and so she makes an effort not to make unattractive faces. I wonder if singers have become more self-conscious about this kind of thing in the age of DVD recordings. Or rather, I am fairly certain that many singers are self-conscious about this; what I wonder about is what the practical effects of it are, artistically. Do people develop work-arounds if they know they look weird producing certain sounds? I mean, thirty years ago it would hardly have mattered, since most people who saw as well as heard opera would have been seeing it live in an opera house, and in that case one is usually sitting too far away to catch every twitch of a muscle on a performer’s face. But things are a little different now.