Back from the 'dead' and very thirsty

Times Staff Writer

"Champagne! Champagne!" lyric soprano Anna Netrebko whispered breathlessly, arriving at a black-tie reception following her knockout debut with Los Angeles Opera in "Lucia di Lammermoor." Not yet. First there was another ovation. Photographs. And gushes of "Brava!" from opera buffs who'd been counting the minutes until she made her entrance at the Fifth Floor in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Smiling as she waved to the crowd, the doe-eyed Kirov Opera star made a graceful dash for a buffet table. "Champagne?" No luck. Off again in her laced-up bustier and miniskirt, elegant ponytail flying, she made her way to another table, this one arrayed with bottles of the effervescent wine. "I'm giddy," she said, raising a flute to her lips. Half an hour before, she'd lost her mind in Gaetano Donizetti's celebrated mad scene. Afterward, she'd sung on her back as she lay dying on the stage floor. "It's almost not possible to sing while you die," she said with a silky giggle. What would she do with the camera dangling from her left wrist? "Before I get completely drunk, I want to have a picture taken with my friends," she said.

Across the room, a group of admirers swarmed around Swiss-born actress and "Lucia" director Marthe Keller. Receiving congratulations from L.A. Opera leaders such as Placido Domingo and Marc Stern, she steered her comments toward the breathtaking performance of the 32-year-old Netrebko. "As a director, you can show something to an actor, but they cannot always do it," she said. "But Anna did it in the mad scene. I told her, 'Lose your head! At that moment you are a happy woman because you have lost your mind. Madness is freedom!' And she did."

Also attending the Nov. 22 party -- and his first performance by Los Angeles Opera -- was Siegfried Fischbacher, partner with illusionist Roy Horn in the famed tiger-taming team Siegfried & Roy. "Watching the performers giving their all onstage, I couldn't help but think that that was what Roy and I did every day," he said, tears in his eyes. "You can't go halfway up there. You must always give 100%."

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