Verdian. It's a word I love. It's a reference to a music to which I am permanently bound, which sounds more poetic than it actually is. It's not that I'm trying to hide a secret Annie Wilkes kind of devotion to a dead guy (That would just be... you know... really gross), though I'm certainly not trying to say that I'm anything but a character in a kid's cereal commercial when it comes to all things Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi was 'it' in the Italian music circle back in the 1800's, and, well, he still pretty much is (Sorry, Battiato). He composed one ode after another to everything, from political issues to family problems to, in the case of "La Traviata," the difficulties one faces when trying to move on from one's past (all those club- swinging squares running around...). Gheorghiu has sung in that final category like a pro from the beginning of her career, when the conductor, Georg Solti, picked her to belt "Traviata's" heroine, Violetta Valery, in a fresh production at the Royal Opera House. She pets every phrase of "The Strayed One" like a cat's countess, with grace and a presence the size of life (maybe a little ironic considering the lung problems of the character, but you can't perform opera without singing it. I don't care what Patitucci says.). Maybe she doesn't always make the jump over the traditional high note at the end of the aria, "Ever Free," but it's okay, since Verdi didn't write it in anyway.
Every Composer's Champ
Callas being an inspiration to her (She's got an album to prove it), she is an advocate for the intentions of opera's composers. She may not, therefore, be a consistent favorite of designers and directors, but, nonetheless, the hands and whoop- whoops of her fans remain high and in flight at almost every performance she gives. Seeded in Romania under a state head who would have made the political minds behind Orwell's Big Brother proud, her vocalism backstage has occasionally been as electric as her appearances above the orchestra pit since her break from Communism's grip. She has proven time and again that talent's voice can touch every nerve, and that a soprano doesn't cross a director dedicated to Franco Zefirelli if she doesn't want an Oxford in her costume bustle. "The wig is going on, with or without you," were Joseph Volpe's words to her when she gave the blonde wig of the soprano character in Zefirelli's production of Bizet's "Carmen" an "I spit on you" look while repeating an emphatic and creative, "No." I'm sure that the soprano who wound up on stage in her stead was in no way dishonored by the opportunity that "No" presented her with. By critics, however, Gheorghiu has been acclaimed as an artist who is "sensitive to... the composers" (Martha Duffy) and, to paraphrase William V. Madison's review of her first Tosca, "unfazed" by even the music that pushes the voice to its limits. Whatever the intentions of the composer, she's game, and most don't require a blonde wig, whether or not the Misters and Misses-es Directors-es like it.
A Tenor's Complement
The greatest tenor/soprano duos of the twentieth century are still around thanks to the recording industry. Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano, Renata Tebaldi and Mario del Monaco, Franco Corelli and Leontyne Price, Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti... These are some of the great equations in opera. In new algebra, we have the Anna Netrebko/Rolando Villazon combo, and the Roberto Alagna/Angela Gheorgiu. Sure, Gheorghiu and Alagna were married for a spell of more than ten years, but that's not what put the equals sign between the two. The key to all of opera's polynomials has always been emotional polyphony, and Gheorghiu is one of those sopranos who simply has what it takes to comprise a part of a complete success in collaboration, never pushing to overpower her partners in any way, though from her a listener can always expect a vocal right hook or two.
Autumn at the Metropolitan Opera is rarely as hot as it is when Gheorghiu pays American audiences a visit. "The world's most glamourous opera star," as bloggers and columnists have agreed she is, joined in the Elena Obraztsova ball at the Bolshoi Theatre yesterday, and is scheduled for a few more "Toscas" and a handful of "La Bohemes" this season. Check out Everyone's Opera's Facebook page for plenty of Gheorghiu video content. Until next time, my friends, happy opera loving!