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Anna Netrebko showcases her flexibility in Verismo / 4 stars from The National

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Russian ­soprano Anna Netrebko takes on nearly a dozen roles she has never sung on stage, displaying a thrilling affinity for a style that in recent years has lacked ideal interpreters. Verismo, or "realism", is the term used to describe Italian opera around the turn of the 20th century.

The roles require a big voice and a big temperament: these women are divas in distress, whether it is Maddalena in Giordano's Andrea Chenier, describing her mother's death at the hands of French revolutionaries, or the title character of Ponchielli's La Gioconda contemplating suicide. Netrebko brings them all to life with her creamy, flexible sound.

The 44-year-old also takes on both soprano roles in Puccini's last opera, Turandot. First comes fragile slave girl Liu's Signore, ascolta!, capped by a lovely soft high B-flat. Then the steely title character's In questa reggia, with its climactic high C.

Besides the pure vocal pleasure it brings, this album serves as a ­landmark in the remarkable growth of a ­singer who began more than two decades ago as a light-lyric soprano, moved into bel canto, then Verdi and Puccini – and recently even ventured into Wagner.     SEE The National PAGE