An interview from the future. By Jay Nordlinger, for National Review
Taken after "Adriana" at Carnegie Hall, this interview (dated Jan 23, 2012) is both about the artist and the person Angela Gheorghiu. A very enjoyable Sunday reading.
She did have a teacher, of whom she speaks gratefully. Her name was Mia Barbu, and she taught Angela for some five years — from the time the girl was 14 until she was 18. “I did my canto lessons,” says Gheorghiu, “pure canto. All the studies” (the Vaccai method and so on). But she did everything “very quick.” What can take others years, she says, took her just a day. She remembers a particular occasion: Barbu said to her, “Breathe.” Angela breathed. The teacher said, “That’s it! Don’t ever change that.”
In a Met Traviata two seasons ago, Gheorghiu clashed with Leonard Slatkin, the conductor. He did not return after the opening night. Slatkin has admitted that he was ill-prepared for the opera, but has also claimed that the diva was intolerable to him (not hard to believe). I ask her, “Do you have any regrets about the Traviata with Slatkin?” She does not recognize the name, or affects not to do so. After a few moments, she says, “Ah, the conductor. He left. This happened.” Okay, but why did he leave? Gheorghiu makes the general point that people often use her as a scapegoat. “My name helps, you know what I mean?” If a person is having problems, he can blame the raven-haired terror from Transylvania. “I don’t care. Use my name, but use it well: Ghee’or-GHEE’oo!”
There are books of opera anecdotes, and I suggest to this soprano that books in the future will have whole chapters devoted to her. Yes, she says, “and I’m not finished yet!” I ask her about one of my favorite stories: Did she really demand hair and makeup for a radio interview? No, she says: There was a photo-shoot the same day as the radio interview. Too bad, I say, it’s such a good story. Yes, she says, “but I have lots of others.”
There is always a post-performance tristesse, “a little emptiness.” You go back to your hotel room, talk on the phone, click through YouTube. The roar and adulation of the crowd are gone. And “I want it back!” says Gheorghiu. “All that love, I want it back! It’s never enough for me.” But then there is another performance, more roars, more adulation — “a rinascimento”