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Anna Netrebko, 'Akh! istomilas ya gorem'

When the reigning diva of our day drops a new solo album after a five-year break, opera nerds everywhere perk up. From the designer gowns to her freewheeling presence on social media, almost everything about Anna Netrebko is extravagant, including her approach to opera. She's an artist willing to take risks, and while not every track on Amata Dalle Tenebre sounds as sleek as a Ruben Singer dress looks, the aria from Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades finds Netrebko in a rich, effulgent voice dressed in shades of deep purple and impassioned with cinematic fervor. The scene is set at midnight, when Netrebko's character, Lisa, awaits a rendezvous with her lover and pours out waves of grief for a life gone sour. Netrebko finds all the bittersweet beauty in Tchaikovsky's melody; listen for her finely tuned dynamics and the daring glottal effect she produces at the crushing final moment.

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Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.