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Eternamente - The Verismo Album
Angela Gheorghiu (soprano)
PKF – Prague Philharmonia/Emmanuel Villaume
Joseph Calleja (tenor), Richard Novak (bass), Prague Philharmonic Choir, Lukáš Vasilek (chorus master)
rec. 2016, Smetana Hall, Municipal House, Prague; 2017, Temple Studios, Malta
Sung texts with English translations are included.
WARNER CLASSICS 9029578024 [59:53]

Since I saw Angela Gheorghiu perform so superbly in Berlin last year in Tosca, one of her signature roles, I have been eagerly awaiting this new Warner album. Titled Eternamente, Gheorghiu’s album contains eleven opera arias and three orchestral songs by nine Italian composers written in the verismo style. This post-Romantic opera tradition sought to portray the realism of gritty everyday life scenes, warts and all, as exemplified by the operas Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci. Gheorghiu chose the title Eternamente taken from the closing words Eternamente t’amo (I love you for all eternity) of the Angelo Mascheroni song.

What I especially appreciate about the programming of this Gheorghiu album, her first studio recording in six years, is how the soprano has chosen an enthralling mix of the familiar, namely Vissi d'arte from Tosca, and the rarely performed such as Giordano’s No! se un pensier tortura from Siberia. Notable is how the majority of the material on the release is completely new to Gheorghiu.

The highlights include Vissi d'arte from Tosca. Gheorghiu sings how the prima donna lives for art and love with all the engagement and assurance one expects from the role she knows so intimately. Vocally her youthful flexibility may have altered but her creamy timbre remains highly attractive, and her low register sounds slightly darker and richer. Of the three arias from Cavalleria Rusticana I especially relish Voi Lo Sapete O Mamma, in which the peasant girl Santuzza has been left dishonoured and abandoned. Wonderfully expressive, with such unwavering projection, Gheorghiu generates tremendous emotion with noticeably careful attention to the text. In Puccini’s La Rondine, it is hard to imagine anyone suited better than Gheorghiu to the role of Parisian courtesan Magda. But here she sings a transcription of tenor Ruggero’s entrance aria Parigi! č la cittŕ dei desideri extolling the charms of Paris with such elegant expression. Extremely enjoyable too is Stephana’s aria No! se un pensier tortura from Giordano’s Siberia, with the heroine tormented that her lover will discover her true identity. Marked here is Gheorghiu’s creamy tone and the ease with which she floats to her high register.

In the notes Gheorghiu praises Vicino a te s'acqueta from Andrea Chénier as “one of the most beautiful duets in opera”. I have reported from Philipp Stölzl’s production of Andrea Chénier, starring Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros, in Munich earlier this year. I can attest to the compelling effect of the duet that appears towards the conclusion of the opera as the couple face death by the guillotine at St. Lazare Prison. The voices of Gheorghiu and tenor Joseph Calleja come together magnificently in an affecting performance that generates terrific drama which would be hard to better. Looking at the recording dates, it seems as if Calleja’s voice was recorded at a separately in Malta and his contributions added on later but in truth it does not seem to matter a jot.

Under its music director and chief conductor Emmanuel Villaume, the PKF – Prague Philharmonia plays with clear commitment and a genuine feel for the music providing an abundance of drama which often sparkles. The Prague Philharmonic Choir may only have a small contribution overall but it is a telling one. Gheorghiu is recorded at Smetana Hall, Municipal House, Prague and has the benefit of excellent sound, clear and extremely well balanced. Jon Tolansky’s high-quality essay places most of the arias in the context of the operas. Gratifyingly, Warner has provided full sung texts with English translations.

With Angela Gheorghiu in such spectacular voice, this rewarding collection of verismo opera arias is hard to ignore.

Michael Cookson

Pietro Mascagni (1863–1945)
1. “Regina coeli” from Cavalleria Rusticana [4:36]
2. “Voi Lo Sapete O Mamma” from Cavalleria Rusticana [3:41]
with Prague Philharmonic Choir
3. “Tu qui, Santuzza” from Cavalleria Rusticana [9:25]
(duet) with Joseph Calleja (tenor)
Stefano Donaudy (1879-1925)
4. “O Del Mio Amato Ben” [4:21]
Orchestration - Andrei Tudor
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
5. “Vissi d'arte” from Tosca [3:16]
Arrigo Boito (1842-1918)
6. “Spunta l'aurora pallida” from Mefistofele [3:39]
with Joseph Calleja (tenor), Richard Novak (bass) and Prague Philharmonic Choir
Angelo Mascheroni (1855-1905)
7. “Eternamente” [4:53]
Orchestration - Andrei Tudor
Licinio Refice (1883-1954)
8. “Ombra di Nube” [3:24]
Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886)
9. “Suicidio” from La Gioconda [4:14]
Umberto Giordano (1867-1948)
10. “No! se un pensier tortura” from Siberia [2:41]
Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857-1919)
11. “Ed Ora conoscetela” from La Boheme [2:09]
12. “Tagliami! Abbruciami!” from Zingari [3:04]
Giacomo Puccini
13. “Parigi! č la cittŕ dei desideri” from La Rondine [2:45]
Umberto Giordano
14. “Vicino a te s'acqueta” from Andrea Chénier [7:45]
with Joseph Calleja (tenor), Emmanuel Villaume (spoken voice)



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