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Interview in Jurnalul.ro - 23.04

With a small delay, here it is. With one correction. The tour in Japan is scheduled after Simon Boccanegra in Madrid. The interview in Romanian can be read HERE. The translation is below.
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The last sold out performances of Zefirelli’s La Traviata that costed 2 million dollars take place these days at the metropolitan, having Angela Gheorghiu and James Valenti in the title roles. What was special about this production?
It’s the second time when the Met presents a run of La Traviata, which was produced especially for me by my friend Franco Zefirelli. The tenor that performed the first time was brought in at my suggestion to the ex general manager, Joe Volpe. It was his debut in this theatre. His name is Jonas Kaufmann. Since then, he has been having an amazing career that we’re both happy of. Franco is a great creator of truth, beauty and culture. Everything is spectacular about this production and people cheer at the beginning of every act when seeing the sets. I’m proud that the 7 performances were sold out in such important city and opera house. It was a little bit difficult because the conductor was changed almost after each performance. The first conductor, Leonard Slatkin, great in the field of symphonic music, abandoned the rest of the performances for personal reasons.
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This was a successful production. Why are these the last performances?
I’m disappointed that the new general manager, Peter Gelb, will replace Franco Zefirelli’s production with one that has no connection with Alexandre Dumas’s novel and Giuseppe Verdi’s idea. It’s a modern production with only one huge clock on an empty stage for the whole length of the opera. A production that isn’t even modern or accepted. By colleague Anna Netrebko already cancelled all her appearances here because she already sung it in Austria some years ago. These so called new productions get outdated almost instantly while the traditional ones can last up to 40 years. The evolution exists, also the modernity, but I don’t agree to be used as Guinea pigs for experiments or directorial fantasies for the sake of novelty. Many of these directors in the world of opera do not understand the music, don’t love the music or singers which is unacceptable for me. Imagine a director at the National Theatre in London trying to direct Shakespeare without being able to speak English at all. Sad to say, these things happen frequently in opera.
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Was this production filmed?
This particular La Traviata wasn’t filmed. There are already two DVDs. There’s Traviata at Covent Garden and another one at La Scala that I’m very proud of. The recording at Covent Garden was a milestone for my career.
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You’ll keep singing in La Traviata but at the Royal Opera House, in the production that made you famous. How was it?
Precisely about this production I was telling you earlier. It was like a fairytale with each and every detail. My meeting with maestro George Solti was very important. There is a famous story when during one of the rehearsals he started crying and left the room. I had the same feelings here. At some point in the third act there was such an emotional moment that I and all my colleagues started crying without being able to say anything else. We stopped the rehearsal for a while. It was difficult to go on. These are special moments that happen and we treasure them. For the part of the tenor at Covent Garden I suggested also James Valenti. He’s an American with Italian origin that I met two years ago in San Francisco. He’s very talented. He has a great voice and he’s very musical. He studied with my dear friend Virginia Zeani, “mama Virginia” as I call her. You’ll hear more about him. It is his debut in both theatres. I’m glad that these performances are successful and the overwhelming reaction of the audience. Covent Garden is “home” for me. I confess this.
I’m spoiled also at the Met but some of the greatest moments of my career and personal life happened in London.
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You’re going on tour in Japan with the Royal Opera House. What would you like to see again there?
I visited Japan more than 20 times. I first went to Tokyo in 1993, also on a tour with Covent Garden, singing in Don Giovanni by Mozart. Everything was a shock for me. I remember what my dear friend Andrei Plesu was writing in his articles when he was minister. It’s a different world. And I found there one of the best Romanian restaurants in the world. It’s on Ginza, the most important street in Tokyo. It’s called “Darie”. The owner was a cook at the Aro Hotel in Brasov. I always go back there with great pleasure. In every Japanese city, hotel and theatre I’m greeted with the Romanian flag. It’s a country that I’m still discovering and I’m fascinated every time. The audience is sensational. The European culture is still something new for them and they want to see the successful performances. I did here many concerts, performances, recitals. I have many memories from this country.
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After that you’ll go to Madrid for Simon Boccanegra, a series of performances honoring Placido Domingo, who celebrates his 70th anniversary. What are you memories related to him?
Ohh, there are many memories, moments in life that connect us, a lifetime friendship. We first met in 1992 at Covent Garden, at the backstage door. He told me “You must be Angela Gheorghiu. I’ll come to listen to you in Traviata for sure”. Since them we’ve done many concerts, performances and recordings together. I met all his family, starting with his mother who was a zarzuela singer in Spain. Placido is a great artist, a phenomenon and some of the most profound and beautiful memories of my life are connected to him. We’ll sing together in Madrid in Simon Boccanegra. He’ll sung the baritone part and not the tenor one. We already made the debut in an important duet of this opera in a Gala at the Metropolitan. It was touching. You can see some videos on Youtube. I managed to persuade him to come to Bucharest in 1994 and we performed together at the Palace Hall. He donated an important amount of money to a hospital for children in Timisoara. In the next months we are waiting for the releasing of a CD that we recorded together, Fedora. We have some projects together. He’s also conducting and the general manager of two American opera houses, Los Angeles and Washington DC, that I’m attending regularly.
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At the end of 2009 at Kennedy Center the Obamas, Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep, Bruce Springsteen and soprano Grace Bumbry applauded you after you sung an aria from Tosca. How is it to receive standing ovations from the most powerful man in the world and some of the greatest artists?
The emotions can’t be described. I remember that Sting came to me backstage and told me “you’ll be great”. The truth is that when an artist gets on stage, she thinks of nothing and nobody. It’s just her, God and what she has to sing, to give to the audience. IF you get overwhelmed by emotions and you’re not capable to control them, you would just faint. I realized what happened at the applause. Seeing them I realized how big the moment was and there wasn’t another way but being myself. What you saw in that video is the result of many years of practicing, experience, involvement. I won’t change according to who’s in the audience. Artists are like doctors. It doesn’t matter who’s in front of them, the color of the skin, education, age, religion, nationality. I think that a divine moment takes place on stage and in that moment you belong to that world.
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After the concert I was touched seeing all those people that impressed me over the years, presidents, politicians, actors, singers: Meryl Streep, the Obamas, Clintons, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Sharon Stone, Robert de Niro, Michael York, Aretha Franklin. It was a sort of festival of American celebrities. The way that reacted made me feel happy and extremely proud that the girl from Adjud is acknowledged in the best way possible. I was thankful for everything that the fairies wished me when I was born. I called my mother from the White House and she told me “My dear, one heart is not enough for the happiness I feel for you”. She was so happy. How could I put that in words?! It’s one of the uplifting moments of my career.
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Denzel Washington invited you recently to see him on Broadway. Will you go?
I’ll try to go. His premiere is after I finish the performances at the Metropolitan. Maybe I make it to a rehearsal. Angela Lansbury, another great actress, performs in New York. This city is dazzling because it’s hard to decide where to spend a memorable evening. Those living in New York are really lucky.
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How did you spend the Easter in New York?
At midnight I was still in my dressing room at the Metropolitan after one of the performances of Traviata. It was an evening with lots of emotions. After that I went to a Romanian Orthodox church here in Manhattan where I and my friends sung “Hristos a inviat”. And a late dinner with Romanian dishes followed.
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Do your plans still include recording an album with Sting?
He’ll come to one of my performances and we’ll talk about that. We haven’t given up the idea but such cooperation is pretty complicated. He’s my fan and a friend I admire a lot and listen to all the time. He sent me his Christmas CD to Bucharest to add it to my collection.

You and your husband Roberto Alagna decided not to get divorced. What’s your relationship in the present?
We have a friendly, cordial relationship. We haven’t seen each other for more than a year. We go on on our own ways.
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Don’t you miss the days you were singing together? Vladimir Cosma, the famous French composer of Romanian origin was preparing for you and Mr Alagna the opera entitled Bonnie and Clyde. Have you gave up the project?
I think that never in the history of opera a married couple sung more together than we did. I consider that everything that we recorded or filmed is important and we are both happy of what we accomplished. Last year I cancelled all my appearances in performances with Roberto. It was my decision. For the next four or five years the schedule is almost full and we don’t have any project together. I don’t think that Vladimir Cosma gave up his project. We’ll see about that.
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The gossip magazines speculated that Dan Bittman and Marian Ionescu wooed you during your last visit in Romania. How do you comment?
I’ve been knowing Marian Ionescu and Dan Bittman for many years. We don’t see each other too often because I only come to Romania from time to time. After I cancelled the appearances in Carmen I wanted to stay longer in Bucharest. We met several times because I will work with them. I dream for a long time to sing with these two bands. They’re very talented and I hope we can listen to some duets with Holograf and Directia 5. Horia Brenciu is also a friend of mine I hope to sing with… he wants that very much too. He’s the brother of a very important Romanian tenor I sung with and who’s singing in many opera houses in the world, Marius Brenciu.
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The end of the year brings a new role, Adriana Lecouvreur at the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden.
It’s a new and extraordinary production. Adrianne Lecouvreur lived during Moliere, Voltaire and Racine’s time. She was one of the most loved French actresses. The opera is composed by one of the most important verist composed, Francesco Cilea. Jonas Kaufmann will sing with me. As director, I suggested David McVicar, a l’enfant terrible in the world of opera direction. We match perfectly. He’s the one whom I worked with for the new production of Faust at Covent Garden.
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