The Romanian soprano is now a contract artist with
EMI, having been wooed (or levered) from Decca following her association
with the tenor, Roberto Alagna, now her husband. The catalogue has benefited
from a series of acclaimed complete opera recordings centred round the
duo, mainly of works by Puccini, but shortly to branch out into Verdi,
Gounod and Bizet. The EMI contract has also produced a series of recital
discs of which this is the latest and follows last year's entitled 'Casta
Diva' (EMI CDC 5 57163-2 review)
which featured that famous aria from Bellini's Norma, as well
as arias by the other great bel canto-ists Donizetti and Rossini. That
disc of 61 minutes duration was generally well received.
This disc derives from a live concert given at Covent
Garden in June 2001, and is rather sparse at 51 minutes including generous
dollops of applause both before, and after the performance! Justified
applause? Certainly not in the first few tracks where the singerís intonation
is suspect, the phrasing choppy and the voice exhibiting raw patches.
Compare her 'Depuis la jour', a soprano showpiece with that by
Renée Fleming (Decca 458 858-2), albeit in studio conditions,
and there is no contest; the American wins hands down.
Gheorghiu comes into her own in the Cilea and particularly
in the Puccini. By then the voice had warmed and 'O mio babbino,
caro' (Gianni Schicchi) and Liu's 'Tu, che di gel sei cinta'
from Turandot are particularly appealing. Her 'Porgi amor' (Figaro)
is nothing special whilst her attempt at 'I could have danced all
night' in execrable English (American?) is unidiomatic. As to her
rendering of 'Casta Diva' from Norma, this reinforces my impression
from last year's disc of that title, Gheorghiu hasn't the voice for
the Bellinian cantilena; compare Sutherland, albeit with over-softened
consonants, and one can hear what is missing.
The conducting of fellow Romanian Ion Marin is flaccid.
He follows when he should lead. This disc might be OK for those who
were there on the night and who seemed very satisfied, if one judges
by level of applause, but as an example for posterity of this considerable
artistís singing, it would have been better left in the archives.
Robert J Farr