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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
My Puccini - Angela Gheorghiu (soprano)
Disc 1: CD [75:26]
La Bohème
Si, mi chiamano [5:02]
Donde lieta usci [3:09]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Anton Coppola
rec. Auditorium di Milano, July 2004
O soave Fanciulla (with Roberto Alagna) [3:46]
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden/Richard Armstrong
rec. Lyndhurst Hall, Air Studios, London, September 1999
La Rondine
Chi il bel sogno di Doretta [3:10]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Anton Coppola
rec. Auditorium di Milano, July 2004
Denaro! Nient’altro che denaro! (with Patrizia Biccire, Patrizia Ciofi, Monica Bacelli) [5:31]
Forse come la rondine [1:10]
Figliuolo, tu mi dici [4:45]
No! Non dir questo! … Ma come puoi lascarmi? (with Roberto Alagna) [6:00]
London Symphony Orchestra/Antonio Pappano rec. No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, August 1996
Suor Angelica
Senza Mamma [5:00]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Anton Coppola
rec. Auditorium di Milano, July 2004
Gianni Schicchi
O mio babbino caro [2:12]
London Symphony Orchestra/Antonio Pappano
rec. Lyndhurst Hall, Air Studios, London, August 1999
Manon Lescaut
In quelle trine morbide [2:37]
Sola, perduta, abbandonata [6:03]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Anton Coppola
rec. Auditorium di Milano, July 2004

Tosca
Mario! Mario! Mario! … Son qui! … Mia gelosa! (with Roberto Alagna) [12:56]

Tosca: Vissi d’arte [3,26]
Senti, l’ora è vicina [6:24]
Come è lunga l’attesa! (with Roberto Alagna Gwynne Howell, David Cangelosi, Sorin Coliban) [3:41]
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden/Antonio Pappano rec. No: 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, August 2000
Disc 2: DVD [66:44]
Madama Butterfly
Un Bel Di, [5:00]
EMI promotional video - Published 2004
Turandot
Tu, che di gel sei cinta [2:54]
Gianni Schicchi

O Mio Babbino Caro [3:50]
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Ion Marin
Published 2002
Madama Butterfly
Vogliatemi bene (with Roberto Alagna) [14:00]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli

Published 1999
Angela Gheorghiu, Reflections on Puccini -
Angela Gheorghiu in conversation, recorded for this DVD: [30'00]
1 CD + 1 DVD presentation pack
EMI CLASSICS 2174412 [75:26 + 66:44]

 

Experience Classicsonline


This is yet another issue to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Puccini's birth. The audio disc is a compilation drawing on five of the soprano's earlier recordings. The CD and associated DVD are contained in a 6-panel digipack along with a forty six-page booklet that includes colour photographs of the diva, track-listings and recording details along with the sung texts of the sixteen CD tracks with translation in English. There is an interview-based note in English, German and French.

As the advertising blurb says, Angela Gheorghiu's voice and stage presence have established her firmly as an international opera super-star. Born in a small Romanian town she graduated from the Bucharest Music Academy. In 1992, she made her international debuts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, at the Wiener-Staatsoper as Adina in L'elisir d'amore and at the Metropolitan Opera as Mimi in La bohème. But it was as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1994 that she really hit the big time, with the BBC clearing a channel to broadcast a performance live, pretty well unheard of since … and probably before. That performance is on Decca DVD (074 3090) and CD (452 194-2).

It was in London that she got together with her future husband the Franco-Italian tenor Roberto Alagna, an EMI artist. In 1996 the two married backstage at the Metropolitan Opera between performances of La bohème in a ceremony conducted by the Mayor of New York. Matters were fixed between the recording rivals and Alagna and Gheorghiu came under the EMI umbrella. With the appointment of Antonio Pappano as Musical Director of Covent Garden the two singers joined him in a series of recordings including Puccini’s La rondine and Tosca from which selections are included here.

Five of the items on the CD derive from sessions recorded in Milan and conducted by Anton Coppola. I give the recording dates as 2004 as indicated in the booklet, which also states that they were published in 1999! These tracks have a more recessed sound for the voice, particularly when compared with the EMI Lyndhurst Hall and Abbey Road sessions.

 

As far as the singing goes, Miss Gheorghiu is not in the Freni class as regards expression or characterisation in Si, mi chiamano from act one of La Boheme (tr.1) although Mimi’s change of mood in the act three Donde lieta usci is well portrayed. The duet O soave Fanciulla with Alagna finds the tenor in throaty mood (tr.2) with the difference in acoustic quite marked. An immediate reaction to Gheorghiu’s singing in these first extracts, and particularly in comparison with the native-speaking Mirella Freni, the Mimi de nos jour, is lack of clarity of diction. Gheorghiu tends to put beauty of tone above clarity of words in many of these extracts, less so in those conducted by Pappano from La Rondine and Tosca.

 

The extracts from La Rondine include the well-known Chi il bel sogno di Doretta (tr.4). It is taken from the Milan sessions rather than from the very enjoyable complete recording from which the other extracts are derived (trs.5-8). This seems to be merely to facilitate the verse normally taken by the tenor and is a loss in respect of performance, with her also cutting the later high note short, as well as continuity of acoustic. Although her diction is poor in Senza mamma from Suor Angelica (tr.9) her phrasing is most appealing. Gheorghiu’s ability to colour her voice and inflect a phrase is heard to good effect in the Coppola session recordings of In quelle trine morbide and Sola, perduta, abbandonata (trs .11-12) from Manon Lescaut. However, I suggest Gheorghiu’s best singing and portrayal in this collection comes in her portrayal of Tosca in the recording that became the soundtrack of the film (trs 14-16). I guess from the inflections and nuances she must have listened to Callas, but there are no curdled or strangulated notes here. Her husband still has something of that throaty emission that mars so many of his Italian language opera recordings, but it is the diva that matters and Gheorghiu’s is a very well sung and dramatically expressive Tosca.

 

The first DVD excerpt (Ch.1) Un bel di from Madama Butterfly shows Gheorghiu in a figure-hugging western dress in a modern house with a man typing a regret letter. The scene moves to another woman on the phone. Is this Pinkerton and Kate, his American real wife perhaps? Gheorghiu looks as if she could be miming the words. This is in a different aspect ratio to the rest. The other DVD excerpts show Gheorghiu as the glamorous dark hired beauty in a variety of dresses at two recitals. Her dark flashing eyes prominent, capable of launching many ships as well as putting the fear up many opera house intendants when she chooses to play diva tricks such as skipping rehearsals to hear her husband on the other side of America, or the mood doesn’t take her, to turn up at all. In Tu, che di gel sei cinta from Turandot she uses excessive colour and misses much of Liu’s fraught emotion as she addresses the princess and hopes that Calaf will win yet again (Ch.2). She is far better expressing the emotions in O Mio Babbino Caro (Ch.4). In the extended Butterfly extract Vogliatemi bene she is joined by her husband as Pinkerton (Ch.3). Whilst he sings with more open-throated Italian than he achieves on many recordings, her expression is more facial than vocal, perhaps reflecting her limited experience of this role on stage. There are no subtitle words shown for the four well-known excerpts, each having its own Chapter as noted. Confusingly the Angela Gheorghiu, Reflections on Puccini is also divided into five Chapters, also numbered one to five. These Reflections owe as much to Jon Tolansky as to La Gheorghiu I suspect. There are eulogistic contributions from Marilyn Horne and Richard Hazel, the latter sang with her in the 2004 Royal Opera House production of La Rondine. Musical extracts give backing to some of the commentary. These include Gheorghiu singing In questa reggia from Turandot. That is a role I would not like her to move to sing on the stage in the even distant future. Expressive and powerful as her voice is, the icy princess would require more steely vocal chords than she possesses.

 

This is a diverse collection of Puccini’s ever-popular melodies and it is well if not uniformly outstandingly sung.

 

Robert J Farr

 



 


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