Interview in Cotidianul - ENGLISH version
The interview was published a few days ago on the online version of the Romanian newspaper Cotidianul (read it here in Romanian). Angela Gheorghiu talked to Marcel Barbatei about music, emotions on stage, a new Auditorium in Bucharest, future projects and the magic of holidays .
Towards the end of the interview Angela said I think there’s no greater joy, especially on Christmas time, than to give and to bring a smile on somebody’s face with a small gesture. So true. I spent one of the best Christmases ever surrounded by a big, happy family. I felt the luckiest person in this world. And I'm still smiling.
What’s the price paid for your success? Is there any payback? Does it take a lot of your time?
I see things differently because I’ve been an artist since I was a child. My family and neighbors then my school colleagues in Adjud and Bucharest have always been my audience. Since I was 17, when I was Angela Burlacu, I’ve been working hard and kept the same constant pace. So I’m used to this lifestyle. I’ve never thought of doing anything else but this.
Travelling all the time, you keep in your heart the dear ones…
Exactly! I keep my family there, together with my colleagues from Art High School and Conservatory who are my brothers and sisters. We’re a big family. There are also some artists, both singers and actors, with whom I kept close relationships. When I come to Romania I’m like elastic, I want to meet everybody. I take my close friends with me all over the world and I fellow Romanians are always on my mind.
Things are working other way round too. More and more Romanians are coming to your performances abroad…
Indeed, there are more and more fans coming to see me. I had hundreds and hundreds of performances only with locals waiting for me at the backstage door. As time goes by, a large number of Romanians are waiting for me after the performance. Last time I was in London, there were hundreds of them. It’s an amazing feeling. They also bring Romanian flags, as happened in La Scala. Right in the middle of the venue there was a huge Romanian flag. In London, at Royal Albert Hall or in Hyde Park, people bring Romanian flags, they come close for me to notice them saying “Do you see me? Do you see me?”. Either Romanian or British, they make me feel special. There are not enough words to express how I feel. There are unique moments.
You had at your feet state presidents, kings and queens who appreciated you, who didn’t hide their tears and got excited together with the rest of the audience. How did you feel?
One thing should be very clear. When I’m on stage I never think of who’s in the audience. It’s impossible. If you ask me what my name is I wouldn’t know. That’s how deep I get involved in what I’m doing. I have the same reactions during the piano and orchestra rehearsals. I don’t sing differently for VIPs. I’m aware of the excitement only after the performance. When I’m singing I don’t know who’s in the audience. They can be people coming to listen to opera for the first time or connoisseurs. As personal content, I can tell you that the three days spent in United States, when I sung in front President Obama, were a fairytale. At the White House reception, beside me and Sting, the other guests, important artists and politicians, were only Americans. We were the only European “intruders”. When they saw my Romanian passport they panicked. Of course I was allowed in and I was very proud of that. There were many artists performing that evening. My turn came after about two hours. The audience’s reaction was amazing. At first I was just one of the artists. After I sung they let go. They felt my emotion; it was tangible, right there in front of them.
They gave up being officials and behaved like regular people…
Sure! Take Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands for example. At the end of a concert we prepared a surprise for Her majesty. Her husband had died recently and we thought of singing a formidable song, Jaques Brel’s “La chanson des vieux amants”. I performed it together with a famous Dutch actor with a great personality, Jeroen Willems. Sadly, he passed away two weeks ago. He had a heart attack and died on stage. I was very upset. Back to that concert, we performed half of the song in French and the other half in Dutch. It was incredible, one of those moments to remember for the rest of your life. We got close to Her Majesty both physically (we were 6 feet away from her) and mentally. It was beautiful.
You performed in real temples of music all over the world. Is it true that the building of such edifice (An Auditorium comparable to those from the other European capitals) is to be started next year?
I’ve been thinking of this for many years but I waited for my word has some weight. That time has come. This project is my idea and Mr Oprescu (mayor of Bucharest) agreed to get involved the moment I told him about it. I was recently named UNESCO ambassador and with the help of all my colleagues that came to Bucharest many times and didn’t have a proper concert hall to perform in, this project will be put into practice. I’m very fond of it and I’ve been dreaming of it since I was very young. One century ago, Soprano Hariclea Darcle and her colleagues are the founders of the National Opera in Bucharest. It’s my turn to use all my connections and to ask my friends to help as I did when I was asked, everywhere in the world. It’s time for Romania to have such a building.
How would this new Auditorium look like?
I’m not the one to talk about architecture. I’m the messenger and the person to guide the forces towards the accomplishment of the project. Those who want to join me and Mr Oprescu are welcome. I’m sure that valuable people all over the world will share my thoughts. Romania is a country famous for art and music and will remain like this forever.
Let me tell you something else. For more than twenty years I’ve witnessed the developments in Romania. Mass media and especially the television created a fake motto: “It’s what the audience wants!” Do we have to set only one direction? No! People have to explore. I’m sure that many of them have never heard a voice like mine or my colleagues’ performing live. This project is one step ahead. It has to be created that environment to bring people close to genuine music, close to the artists who give so much on stage.
Is your schedule for 2013 ready?
For the time being I’ll enjoy the holidays. I’m hardly in Romania at the end of the December. When I was invited to perform abroad on Christmas I always performed Romanian carols. I can’t stop thinking of the event at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. The Christmas service is very important there, it’s broadcast all over United States. I was asked to perform and I said “It will be my pleasure but only if I’m allowed to sing a Romanian carol, at least a cappella”. I did that. This is one of the examples. I want to sing more Romanian music next year, it’s a priority. I’ll have a recital at La Scala, accompanied by Dan Grigore. The program will contain lots of Romanian songs. I’ll also start rehearsing some duets with Andrea Bocelli. I told him that I have to sing at least one Romanian song, no discussions. In July I’ll be at Royal Opera House to perform in La Rondine. There’s also a concert in Paris... and many other projects.
I’m an artist and drama is part the job, part of me. For me music is a reality, is the passion I’ve been spreading since I was little to make people happy at least for a few hours, to make them forget about the daily life. If there’s music, there’s spirituality, there’s God…
Who let people give, share…
Yes, and I think there’s no greater joy, especially on Christmas time, than to give and to bring a smile on somebody’s face with a small gesture. I believe this with all my heart and I invite everybody to do the same.