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Virginia Zeani talks about La Rondine. Angela & Roberto talk about Mrs Zeani

I found this photo inside the Opera House in Bucharest. At the first floor, before entering the balcony, there's a dusty display of old but very valuable stuff found in the archives (pictures, some of them autographed, posters, costumes). There are several other pictures of Mrs Zeani and I'll put them here one by one.
Fascinating details from the private life but also from the life on stage are presented in this interview that Luminita Arvunescu made with the great soprano Virginia Zeani in October 2008. Radio Romania Muzical celebrated Puccini and thought that Mrs Zeani has a lot to say about this. 71 roles on the most important stages, a life full of love, stories about famouse people in her life... all these were told in a very long interview (in Romanian). There are 8 episodes (see HERE), each one dedicated to a particular opera. Click on the name of the opera to listen to the episode:
*4 - Tosca (interview with baritone Nicolae Herlea and tenor Corneliu Fanateanu)
*5 - La Rondine (interview with Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna)
*8 - Anniversary edition dedicated to Mrs Zeani with the participation of Her Royal Highness Queen Ana of Romania and His Royal Highness Price Radu Duda
Angela and Roberto were preparing La Rondine for the Met premiere on December 31st 2008 at that time. They speak a lot about Mrs Zeani and how she influenced their ways in music. And if you've never heard Roberto speaking Romanian, this is your chance.
This is the first part. The entire interview has 50 minutes and there's also a lot of music. It was a true pleasure listening to it again. And I thought some of you might enjoy it too. Listen and read. Don't just read because you also have to listen to THE VOICE.

Virginia Zeani – Tribute to Puccini, 150 years
Radio interview with Virginia Zeani, Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna
A program by Luminita Arvunescu
Angela Gheorghiu: We first met by listening to a recording. She was the first opera singer I listened to. It was the first disk I ever listened to.
Luminita Arvunescu: What was she singing?
AG: It was an Electrecord recording. I used to go to the State Library in Bucharest during the highschool period. I had never seen an opera live. Later on I saw all Eugenia Moldoveanu’s performances. I first listen to a singer from abroad on a LP. It was La Traviata. Mrs Zeani recorded in Romania La Traviata and Tosca. La Traviata was the first disk I listened to. When I was a young girl the State Library was the only place I could listen to music. It was a very pleasant atmosphere there. She made me dream at 14 about what I was going to do years after.

AG: She was a sort of goddess, the way she looked like, her voice
LA: She was gorgeous.
AG: It’s something you’re born with. I always felt she was a phenomenon, a diva in the best way possible.
LA: Diva on stage, but a very modest and warm person off stage.
AG: Diva doesn’t mean something bad.
LA: No, opera needs divas.
AG: Yes, I think so. It’s something the artists dream about or they are born to become one. They are persons people dream about.
I talked about the diva Virginia Zeani with the diva Angela Gheorghiu and her husband Roberto Alagna during this fifth episode of the eight episode broadcast entitled “Virginia Zeani – Tribute to Puccini” and realized on the occasion of 150 years from the birth of the great Italian composer. I recorded a conversation with Virginia Zeani about “La Rondine”, “The Swallow”, the fifth Puccinian score Mrs Zeani approached during her career.
La Rondine, another love story a la Puccini, was successfully performed by the couple Gheorghiu/Alagna, while the experts keep on studying its musical language. I talked to Mrs Zeani about how original the plot and music of this opera are, an opera that musically reminds of La Boheme and from the point of view of the atmosphere it reminds of La Traviata. I also dared to approach another topic, her love story with the bass Nicola Rossi Lemeni, artist and husband who passed away 17 years ago.
Many times she was unfairly considered just the most beautiful Violetta of her time, the artist with the best voice for the famous character. People forget that Virginia Zeani’s repertoire has 71 characters. Angela Gheorghiu talked about all these in an interview she gave me. Mrs Zeani considers Angela the image of what she could have been if…
LA: If she had been more careful with the recordings, if she had considered more what would remain after her retirement…
AG: She told me something: “Angela, you’ll avenge me”. From this point of view, it’s true. But I haven’t done yet what she did. She performed live on stage many of the roles I haven’t dared or ever have the courage to do. She had a different type of career. She wanted to spend more time in Italy, to stay with her family. I’m more independent. But she got involved in operas. I remember “Dialogues des Carmelites” where she performed the title role. There were composers that thought and wrote for her.
Poulenc was one of her contemporary artists that loved her voice and admired it with immense hope. “La voie humaine”, a score that Zeani sung in premiere at Monte Carlo on March 23rd 1975 never had, according the composer, a more emotional rendition.
AG: Her repertoire is fantastic. My opinion is that what Virginia Zeani did is inimitable, with all due respect to my colleagues. I don’t think there’s a role she hadn’t performed on stage. Nowadays this is very difficult. Having a different type of career, she managed to do an incredible thing. She had a different nature. She didn’t think twice. I think very often of what I have to do on stage. Criteria for directing and staging changed a lot. Speaking of myself, the demands are so great that I have to be more careful with the repertoire. Seeing what I’m doing she said “I should have been like you”. She means that she’s content and she would have liked to do the same.
LA: She could have done the same.
AG: She could. And she did a fantastic job. She hasn’t recorded in the studio, as I do now.
LA: Because this was not a common thing those days.
AG: But there are two live recordings on vinyl.
LA: Yes, it’s true, as Angela Gheorghiu says. There are live recordings with Virginia Zeani. And the full recording of “Zelmira” by Rossini made in 1995 under the name of “Great Opera Performances”, after a show in Naples in 1965.

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