Anna Netrebko effortlessly confirmed her status as prima donna assoluta, lavishing good, old-fashioned operatic magic on a very happy audience, bonbon by bonbon.

She waved to us during spotlit entrances and exits, and ever so playfully "intruded" on her husband, Yusif Eyvazov's Neapolitan encore.

From the start, the Russian soprano revealed why she is one of the great voices of today. Her Ritorna vincitor shaded its many shifting emotions to perfection, delivered with a roving, theatrical panache.

Other highlights, similarly inspired, included popular arias from La Wally and Rusalka.

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The strong-voiced Eyvazov may not have matched Netrebko's tonal lustre, but he was a handsome stage animal, signing off Cavaradossi's final aria with a dramatic gasp for life.

Two love duets, from Otello and Andrea Chenier, were rapturous, the second presented with a physicality that, for a few precious minutes, blurred real life with the fantasy world of opera.

The distinguished baritone Elchin Azizov gave us a vengeful Iago and a macho Escamillo, and sealed a stirring Verdian pact with Eyvazov.

His cane, due to a Melbourne injury, became a witty prop, when Netrebko whisked it away to take him for a Merry Widow waltz.

Heartfelt thanks to an on-stage Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, in good form and conducted by Mikhail Tatarnikov, revealing subtle colours and scorings that usually emanate from the pit.

Review

What: Anna Netrebko & Yusif Eyvazov
Where: Aotea Centre
When: Saturday
Reviewer: William Dart