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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!