Part II - Music and pure emotion with Angela Gheorghiu
Part II of the interview broadcast on Radio Romania Muzical on December 24. The first part is here.
Il Pirata played a very important part in Maria’s career. Could it represent the future for Angela Gheorghiu?
Not necessarily this role, but belcanto yes. I liked it a lot when I first listened to it. I discovered Maria’s energy much later when I was already a lyrical artist. I imagined her, as I didn’t have the opportunity to see her performances. It was impossible back then. When I finally saw her, she was exactly as I imagined she would be. She was so courageous.
You are so alike.
In many ways, yes, regarding the character. Vocally, not really. Maybe the remarkable color of the timbre and the power of persuasion even without visual contact. It’s like a soundtrack. When recording I thought I have to make people believe even if they don’t see me. More than that, I trust those in front of me. I always record with an orchestra. I’m always nervous because they’re my most ardent critics. Their reactions send clear messages.
Do you feel the connection with them?
Sure. We communicate only by watching into each other’s eyes. We have done that for so many times.
I realize now that the footage from Madama Butterfly is like a movie.
If you come to my recordings, it’s like watching a movie. That’s why they filmed the audio recording session for Tosca.
Not everybody loves the camera. Between you and the camera it’s a sort of chemistry.
Same with the microphone. But it’s not my merit here.
Any other films in your future plans?
I don’t know. I’m not an actress. People ask me and I say yes when I believe I should be part of the project. I had all sorts of strange offers.
Maria did that amazing Medea..
It’s not that amazing. She is amazing.
Is she too far away from the music?
No, she is tremendous. But the movie is not a success. Making a movie requires professionals in the field, people that could understand her huge power. They chose her for a powerful movie. The opera is difficult, voice breaking. She did it, but I disagree. Regarding the movie, it’s a question of personal taste. It didn’t convince me. Maria is wonderful and she could have done any movie she wanted. But fate decided otherwise.
We move forward to Neda. Neda wasn’t a special role in Maria’s career.
She sung it a few times. She sung many times Traviata, Norma. She did all the others maybe once or twice. I liked Neda a lot. I also liked the way she sings it. It’s like campaign. I enjoy listening to her singing effervescent roles with a genuine voice, playing young girls, when it’s not a drama everywhere. Drama was so natural to her. When you’re born with this dramatic feeling you don’t have to add to many things. You just have to be aware of it. When she did some funny roles such as Adina I think she had a lot of fun.
You enjoyed doing it too.
I did it twice, both times with Franco Zefirelli’s direction. I sung it with no other but Placido Domingo at Covent Garden and Dima Hvorostovsky was my partner, Silvio. And then I sung it in Los Angeles with Roberto Alagna. There were great places and I had the best tenors.
And we got to Delilah.
There’s a story here. I doubt Maria would be happy knowing that EMI released this aria. When she started recording Samson et Delilah, she only did three arias. She didn’t want it to be released. EMI has never released it as long as she lived.
But Angela Gheorghiu sung it.
Yes. Later on EMI released the opera. Her sister considered that it would be a pity for the public not to listen to her singing this part. She sings it beautifully. I think of it was something sensual, excellent and I promised myself to record it on the first occasion possible. I wanted to record a part that I’ve been singing millions of times in the shower.
I’m sure that all the choices are yours.
Always. It has been like this for 20 years now. If there’s something wrong I can say it’s my fault.
And this is how you have a good night sleep.
Exactly. It was a choice.
Besides the arias we’ve already listened to talked about (La Boheme, Faust, Il Pirata, I Pagliacci, Samson et Delilah and Medea) on the CD there are also arias from La Wally, Le Cid, Andrea Chenier, Adriana Lecouvreur and… Habanera.
Habanera is an aria re-written, if I may say so, by the composer. I sung the original version, which is not this well-known one. The composer wrote something less interesting. He realized it and replaced it with this dance, this Spanish folk song. He had never been to Spain but composers have knowledge. So he composed this Habanera. Nowadays many people have no idea where it comes from, they think it’s part of a commercial, or pop music, or maybe Celine Dion or some other pop singer sung it. Habanera has always been a point of attraction for all the lyrical singers, mezzos or sopranos. I’m one of them. I’m soprano and have never had mezzo qualities. Roberto, with his French origins, persuaded me in doing both Werther and Carmen. I’m happy I accepted. I sung Habanera hundreds of times in my concerts. I like it very much.
Its tessitura is not too low.
No, it’s ok.
Confortable for soprano voice.
It belongs to French music where sopranos are not mezzos and mezzos are not sopranos. It’s something in the middle. It’s a very beautiful aria. Carmen is a mezzo part. I started up the project at Metropolitan Opera New York but I thought I shouldn’t take the role away from mezzos. I should leave some things for them too. (Laughing). No, I had my personal reasons back then. But who knows… maybe…
It would be great!
Physically I don’t look too bad. The role is interesting.
So Medea is not part of near future plans..
No. I consider that the composer didn’t understand the soprano voice. He didn’t write well enough. This part is voice breaking. I don’t want to step on an unhealthy territory for my voice. I don’t like experiments so I avoid them. My voice is at stake. Maybe I would like to sing some other kind of music, music that I appreciate, that can be an enjoyable experience.
For sure the virtual duet with Maria Callas realized for this CD was a unique experience.
When was this CD actually recorded?
Half of it was recorded at Abbey Road in London and the rest of it in New York. I did it last year, in 2010.
You worked a lot to make it.
Everything involves a lot of work. I remember the recording session for Madama Butterfly. I sung more than 2 weeks, 3 hours every day.
A recording session lasts for three hours. During the recording sessions in New York for “Homage to Maria Callas” EMI forced me to finish the CD. They put me in a situation I’ve never accepted before and I’ll never accept it again. I accepted to take part in Romeo et Juliette rehearsals at the Metropolitan in the morning and in the afternoon and in the evening I had to record for the CD. After a week I got a bad cold because of running from one place to another. It came the moment when I had to choose between these two activities. Not only that, but I also had to admit that I need a break to rest. That was the reason I cancelled those Romeo et Juliette performances. I went to many doctors. But thank God I managed to finish recording the CD. At first I thought I might be able to do it, I won’t catch a cold. Romeo et Juliette has a very… interesting direction. I disliked it profoundly. One year before I wanted to withdraw but Placido got upset with me and asked me not to cancel. But the destiny made it happen. You can’t get away what you’re afraid of.
I was at the Met that March and people were talking about your two cancellations. Let’s face it; everything you do becomes conversation topic right away. Your celebrity status can harm.
Don’t ever think that I’m at home relaxed after a cancellation. I have a reason. I accept I’m not in good shape and I won’t make the audience suffer with me. Why would I do that? I’m aware and conscientious. I’m upset. I don’t throw parties. It’s a sad situation and I take full responsibility. Between two bad things I choose the less harmful one. It’s very hard not to feel good and to have to go and sing. It’s very difficult.
** to be continued **