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Angela Gheorghiu - Live from La Scala
Jean-Paul MARTINI (1741-1816)
Plaisir d’amour [4:26]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
O cessate di piagarmi (1683) [2:52]
Alessandro PARISOTTI (1815-1913)
Se tu m’ami [3:30]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
O del mio dolce ardor (1770) [3:52]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Malinconia, ninfa gentile (1829) [1:29]
Vanne o rosa fortunata (1829) [2:24]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Me voglio fa’na casa [2:33]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Stornello (1869) [1:48]
In solitaria stanza (1839) [4:32]
Brindisi II (1845) [2:23]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Serenade (1857) [3:53]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Chant d’amour (1872) [3:33]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Elegie [2:33]
Alfred ALESSANDRESCU (1893-1959)
Cind perdeaua dragii mele [2:23]
Diamandi GHECIU (1892-1980)
Si daca [3:06]
Tiberiu BREDICEANU (1877-1968)
Floricica de pe apa (1917) [1:43]
Bade, pentru ochii tai (1923) [3:03]
Vai, badita, dragi ne-avem (1905) and
Dragu-mi-l, mandro, de tine (1920) [3:32]
Gherase DENDRINO (1901-1973)
Te iubesc! (1954) [3:46]
Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)
A vucchella [2:33]
Alan Jay LERNER (1918-1986) / Frederick LOEWE (1901-1988)
I could have danced all night (1956) [2:18]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
O mio babbino caro (1918) [3:12]
Angela Gheorghiu (soprano)
Jeff Cohen (piano)
rec. 3 April 2006, La Scala opera house, Milan, Italy. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 3 94420 2 [63:33] 


There is no doubt that Angela Gheorghiu’s glorious voice, attractive looks and astounding stage presence have created and maintained her star status. She is recognised now as probably the finest operatic soprano of her generation. The Romanian-born singer has been in constant demand since making her international breakthrough in 1994 – specifically as Violetta at Covent Garden in Traviata in 1994 under Solti’s influential advocacy.

This disc prompts reminiscences of Gheorghiu recorded back in 2001 singing live from Covent Garden with a repertoire of arias from romantic and verismo operas of the 19th and early 20th centuries (EMI Classics 7243 5 57264 2 1). Swapping a full orchestra for piano accompaniment this recital disc is a different proposition. Recorded live at La Scala in Milan she actually made her belated debut at the celebrated and daunting opera house. Without any suggestion of preciousness Gheorghiu explains her decision with understandable satisfaction, “I think it was very courageous.” Having attended several vocal recitals recently I can empathise about how recitals are such a challenging proposition. Gheorghiu observes, “the public feels so close and intimate. There’s really nowhere to escape.”

The La Scala recital, encores excluded, is divided into four well thought out sections. Her programme opens with a set of four Arie antiche (Ancient arias) from Alessandro Scarlatti, Parisotti, Martini and Gluck. Gheorghiu then performs a group of six bel canto arias by Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi followed by three chansons by Gounod, Bizet and Massenet. Returning to her roots she completes the recital with a series of songs from her Romanian homeland. 

Her recital is launched with the first of four Arie antiche, Martini’s Plaisir d’amour, a work that demonstrates the exquisite tenderness in her mid to low range. There’s a light and buoyant character to Scarlatti’s O cessate di piagarmi from Il Pompeo and Parisotti’s Se tu m’ami demonstrates her strength and flexibility, soaring effortlessly into her top range. Gluck’s O del mio dolce ardor from his opera Paride ed Elena, set in her highest register, aptly displays her beautiful warm timbre. 

The bel canto arias begin with a robust and comforting performance of Bellini’s Malinconia, ninfa gentile and the superb melodic line in the warmly expressive Vanne o rosa fortunate - a real crowd pleaser. Equally convincing is the soprano’s playful and amusing interpretation of Donizetti’s Neapolitan aria, Me voglio fa’na casa.

From early in Verdi’s career In solitaria stanza and Brindisi II are arias intended for the salon, however, there is nothing lightweight about them. With their serious and dramatic character one cannot help but be impressed with Gheorghiu’s security and vigour. From the same year as his opera La forza del destino Verdi’s Tuscan folksong Stornello is an appealing love song, here vivaciously performed. 

The first of the French chansons is Gounod’s calming Sérénade, a work from the same period as his opera Faust. This gently rocking song is given a compelling and moving performance of real substance. The agitated rhythms of the Chant d’amour from Bizet supports Gheorghiu’s wonderful flights of drama. In Massenet’s sorrowful Elégie she conveys melancholy by the cart-load in this extremely moving song - a highlight of the recital. 

The first of the set of Romanian songs is Alessandrescu’s Cind perdeaua dragii mele, a heart-rending piece performed superbly with real spirit. In Gheciu’s Si daca the soprano’s soaring flights to the stars appear effortless. 

She has selected four arrangements from Tiberiu Brediceanu, a prolific composer and arranger of some 2000 folk-like songs that he recorded onto wax cylinders. The first piece, Floricica de pe apa, is a tender love song here delivered to perfection. Despite the rather unappealing lyrics the moving Bade, pentru ochii tai is a moving song of love. Played without a break the next two songs Vai, badita, dragi ne-avem and Dragu-mi-l, mandro, de tine, are rhythmic and rather zany. Gheorghiu communicates peerlessly to a grateful audience.

The final Romanian song is Dendrino’s Te iubesc taken from the composer’s greatly admired 1954 operetta Lasati-ma sa cant. Charming and memorable, this is performed with vigour combined with beauty. Gheorghiu here reaches her highest register with an unforced distinction.

The three encores commence with a charming song from Francesco Tosti A vucchella - given a light and creamy delivery. The next encore is Lerner and Loewe’s I could have danced all night from the 1956 Broadway musical My Fair Lady. It remains a mystery to me why she chooses to perform this song as it does not suit the soprano’s heavy English accent. However, despite minor microphone problems it is given an entertaining rendition and her effortless ascent to the climax is outstanding. The final aria is Puccini’s O mio babbino caro from the 1918 opera Gianni Schicchi. Not surprisingly with this audience-pleasing aria Ghoerghiu brings the house down; it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

Accompanist Jeff Cohen tends to play with an excessive weight which is especially noticeable owing to the forwardly-placed piano. The recorded sound is decent enough for a live recital but not outstanding. The booklet notes contain all the necessary information and the cover photographs are stunning. 

Gheorghiu’s star continues to shine bright and here she demonstrates that her broad-ranged voice remains in excellent heart. How I wish that I had been there at La Scala. Brava!

Michael Cookson



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