Angela Gheorghiu, Orchestra
Sinfonica Di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Riccardo Chailly
DECCA 466 952-2 (67
minutes), Full Price
Otello- Willow Song and Ave Maria. La Forza del Destino - Pace
Pace. Simon Boccanegra - Come in quest'ora bruna. Un Ballo in Maschera -
Morro ma prima in grazia. Rigoletto - Caro Nome. Il Trovatore - Che piu
t'arresti? Tacea la notte placida. I Vespri Siciliani - Merce dilette amiche.
Aida - Qui Radames verra! O Patria Mia. Don Carlo - Tu che le
Very occasionally a disc comes along which defies criticism. This is one
Not only is Angela Gheorghiu in resplendent voice, the tone richer than for
some time, but the beauty of her high notes is floated with Elysian,
transcendental beauty. I would not usually recommend a disc for a single
track, but in this case I would say her performance of Pace, Pace Mio
Dio, from La Forze del Destino, alone makes this
disc worth it's price. Her first utterance of 'Pace' is absolutely riveting
- a single note spun from a silken web and held breathlessly for what seems
an eternity. The most gentle pianissimo is sung like a prayer, the velvety
depth to the voice as sumptuous as you could ask for. But it just gets better
and better - I have never heard the final note on 'Maledizione!' held with
such control. It is simply thrilling.
The whole of this disc is full of such treasures. The 'Willow Song' from
Otello is an example of how a pianissimo should be caught, like the
most delicate and polychromic of butterflies trapped between the hands. There
is an iridescent beauty to this voice which almost defies literal description.
Hearing the entire disc you could almost say it is like looking at a rainbow
refracted through a prism - so colossal is the spectrum of colour in Gheorghiu's
voice. Such beauty in the 'Willow Song' makes the distinction between
the music's ominous tone-world and underlying bleakness unbearably moving.
In the aria, 'tu che le vanita..', from Don Carlo, the sonorous
brass chords herald a performance that mixes memory with passion and an
absolutely exquisite final pianissimo. The tension is held masterfully.
Her Gilda from Rigoletto, her Leonora from Il Trovatore, and
her Aida are all finely drawn portraits of some of Verdi's most subliminal
This entire recital reminds me of the first Verdi aria disc which Maria Callas
recorded with Nicola Rescigno and the Philharmonia in 1958. Like Callas,
Gheorghiu has an uncanny ability to enthral with her vivid characterisation
and intensely dramatic imagination. The voices are similarly rich - although
Gheorghiu has an uncommonly firmer middle register and vibrantly lower voice.
This disc is immeasurably enriched by having a dramatic soprano at the peak
of her powers in repertoire in which she really has no rival.
What also sets this disc apart from virtually all others is the orchestral
playing. Riccardo Chailly achieves miracles where many others just accompany.
This is intensely interactive music-making, with the orchestral colours often
as staggeringly bright and multi-layered as those of Angela Gheorghiu's soprano.
Decca have given these supreme artists a recording that is of demonstration
quality - with superb warmth and resonance. I might also suggest that Decca
release more discs under the legend 'Heroines' since they seem to have found
themselves onto a winner. The two discs I have now heard (this one and Renee
Fleming's Strauss disc) are easily amongst the most cherishable vocal discs
I have heard for many years.
It would be a very unusual year indeed if I heard a finer disc of arias than
Angela Gheorghiu's spellbinding record. Buy it without delay.
Performance and Sound -
and Rob Barnett adds:-
I will not have much to say about this disc before I recommend it to all
opera and diva fanciers. I am not an opera buff so voice views gained from
an experience which but for this review I am unlikely to have had. Gheorghiu's
name is well known to me as one half of a partnership with the dashing tenor,
Roberto Alagna. They are both blest with photogenic looks and with voices
Gheorghiu is just glorious in this repertoire: no trace of wobble in her
voice, clear diction (the words are in the leaflet), wonderful attention
to dynamics and a self-effacing attitude to partnering the orchestra. There
are many highlights but all I will mention is that time after time the mutually
sensitive duetting between the winds (especially flutes and clarinets) and
Gheorghiu left this listener in awe of such beauty. A disc to win over doubters
and outright condemners. I will listen to Verdi and Gheorghiu with freshly
discovered respect in future. The orchestra is in great form - no trace of
being in cruise control. A plush production all round.