The other night, the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko floated on top of a pink and turquoise plastic swan in a Brentwood swimming pool, her tiny manicured toes dipped in the water.
A video camera hovered above while an assistant wearing a wet suit circled the singer. It was a little before 8 p.m., and the shoot for an MTV-meets-the-Met music video had just begun. At the edge of the pool, Vincent Patterson, choreographer for Madonna, Britney et al., watched on a monitor.
The production crew and the 32-year-old singer (who's featured in the current Vanity Fair and will sing the title role in Los Angeles Opera's upcoming "Lucia di Lammermoor") had come to Brentwood to film the last of five video segments to accompany her latest CD -- a Deutsche Grammophon recording of operatic highlights by Mozart, Donizetti, Puccini and others, packaged to make the most of her lovely features. Plans call for the videos to be released in the U.S. as a DVD in the spring.
As she lip-synced to a playback of her singing Antonin Dvorak's "Song to the Moon" ("O moon, stay awhile, tell me where my beloved is!"), about a dozen crew members, many of them Austrian, watched from the edge of the pool. Inside the house, a model -- the "male talent," who would join the filming later -- was slumped in a chair, reading a paperback.
"Your hands are his hands, OK?" Patterson called out to Netrebko. Lovingly, she ran her fingers through her hair and caressed her white outfit -- a little more than a bathing suit but not quite a dress. The camera zoomed in.
At one end of the kidney-shaped pool, a fire marshal watched the floating Netrebko, holding his thumbs in his belt and slightly swaying to the music.
"This side, that's the movie star side," Patterson told her.
Netrebko yawned a little ladylike yawn. Her stylist jumped in the pool, treading water as she rearranged the soprano's hair. "It's getting colder," the singer complained, but added, pensively, "you must suffer for the art."
-- Louise Roug