Anna Netrebko
Photo: Rolf Klatt/
As a teenager, the Russian singer Anna Netrebko cleaned floors at St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre to pay for singing lessons; today the 36-year-old is poised to become opera's next superstar. Her story has already set off a media frenzy, but it's her singularly luminous voice that has won critical acclaim. She's also one of the rare opera singers to win a following among people who don't consider themselves opera fans.

On Netrebko's album Duets, she teams up with a frequent partner, the Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón. Together they have the sort of chemistry that's hard to fake (onstage they look—and sound—like they want to rip each other's clothes off). The album begins with "O Soave Fanciulla," from Puccini's La Bohème, a piece of music so famous and familiar that it can sometimes fail to make an impact. Netrebko and Villazón's rendition feels totally fresh—hearing it is like falling in love for the first time. The two go on to sing seven more duets, including selections from Verdi's Rigoletto and Tchaikovsky's Iolanta.