Part 2, in ENGLISH - The interview at "Vocea umana" on Radio Romania Cultural
Second and last part of interview Angela Gheorghiu gave to Mihaela Soare for "Vocea umana", broadcast on Ester, on April 16 and 17 on Radio Romania Cultural. The main topic was "Homage to Maria Callas" but there are many other musical topics brought up. You can read/listen to the first part here.
An interview with Angela Gheorghiu is not an easy thing to do. She challenges you. She makes you reconsider certain preconceived ideas about artists and about herself in particular. Her honesty might be blunt. Her ideas are decisive and she utters them accordingly. And I thought it’s absolutely worth having a face-to-face conversation because Angela is herself a show. From a raised hand to underline an idea she cares about to the warm smile when speaking of a favorite topic. It was meant to be a dialogue at midnight in an elegant setting, in Bucharest.
I listened to “Homage to Maria Callas” several times attentively. There are arias that you’ve already sung even if you haven’t performed the role on stage. I retrieved familiar things, the beauty of the voice, fierceness, sensibility, sensuality that we all recognize in your voice, your amazing pianissimi, the warmth of emotions when singing. But I found something more. A deeper musical content than before, as if each sound is even more polished in search of its hidden meanings. Does an artist ever stop exploring a character?
What you said sounds good. These are the results of a situation, a quest, a state of mind. I recorded the CD in two locations, half at Abbey Road in London and the other half in New York. It all started with EMI’s suggestion of making a duet with Maria Callas. It was technically possible. I’ve said that before. It was very important that we were colleagues at EMI and the result was very good, technically speaking. I really wanted to bring homage. I didn’t do it to get such beautiful compliments. I think all the artists do the same. I wanted to include a variety of roles, arias that we haven’t necessarily performed on stage. While she was alive she never agreed to release “Samson et Delilah” on CD. She didn’t consider it good enough. Later on, her sister released on CD all these arias. I chose an eclectic repertoire and each aria has a story. I tried to get as close as possible to something she did. I didn’t want to make a difference between us speaking of repertoire, performances and characters. It’s important that you can listen to me and listen to her. I was fully aware of what I’m doing. I knew she was a great person. I discovered her by listening to recordings at the library of the Conservatory, without seeing any photo of hers. I listened to my first CD later on, and it was La Traviata with Virginia Zeani. Maria Callas owes a lot to Virginia Zeani’s husband. When I saw Mrs Zeani’s photo I said to myself “oh, God, this human being is also singing!!”. I don’t give advice. I speak from experience. I don’t repeat what I heard from somebody.
I started listening to recordings at the State Library and the first one was Virginia Zeani’s. I didn’t miss any of Eugenia Moldoveanu’s performances at the Romanian Opera. I wanted to listen to everything whether I liked it or not. I didn’t like to be ignorant. I mean it. It was not only opera. I plunged in the divine classical music. My first live TV broadcast was at 18. Iosif Sava wanted to listen to me, as he knew I was a first year student at the Conservatory. So he did this broadcast with all the students in Arta Florescu’s class because he wanted to listen to me as soon as possible. Iosif Sava did great things for music. He was our angel. He knew how to recognize a talent and he dedicated himself to it. He did all he could for me. Many times I was guest at his broadcasts and the only singer among actors. The second edition of “Do you like opera?” took place when I was in the first year at the Conservatory. I was invited and I asked who else was singing. The first names uttered were “Nicolae Herlea and Eugenia Moldoveanu”. What was I supposed to sing? Addio del passato. Since I was 18 I have never talked to anyone about canto. I understood everything at 18.
You’re a phenomenon and this is not a compliment or a joke.
It’s reality. I chose to be my own teacher.
Since 18 I haven’t asked a sole question to anyone. I don’t ask questions.
It’s like you’re telling me a story. I know lots of young people that are overwhelmed with information and they’re still not singing well. You have always said that your technique was polished up at 18. And your voice sounds exactly like twenty years ago, as beautiful, as sensual as back then. Of course several details improved as time went by.
I’ve always been the slave of my own self, voice and destiny. I was aware from the beginning of what I was meant to do. It’s a fact but it’s not that awesome. I have a body as anybody else and I have needs and desires. The only difference is that I’ve had a mission since I was a young girl. I decided to fully dedicate myself and to give everything.
Generally speaking, this means musical intelligence, trust in your own instinct, a very strong will and faith in your own gift.
You have this genuine wish to share your real value without being modest.
Sometimes it’s not so good to be so aware because it comes with responsibility and huge emotions. I always want to give emotions, to build up something in order to make people dream with me. This is so difficult and it never ends. My awareness of what I’m doing gives me unbearable emotions. Don’t ask me how I face this feeling. It’s hard. I won’t say I don’t like it, on the contrary. But the body doesn’t always help. And here it comes my less enjoyable side, cancellations. I realize that I’m not feeling fine on a certain day. I must accept that I don’t have to make people suffer. I’m sad that I have to stay at home. This is a price I have to pay. I don’t want to become melodramatic. When I started twenty years ago, I started from the best places possible.
Covent Garden, the Met… there’s nothing better than these.
This is what I wanted. Mia Barbu told me this was what I had to do and I followed her advice. And she was so right. At the same time I became the black sheep, the difficult person. But all my colleagues, conductors, directors and opera singers that shared my emotions understand me perfectly. You said I enjoy fighting for opera. It’s true, because I’m the first one to get the phenomenon. No matter the race or religion we all want the same thing, a good performance. Is it true?
It is absolutely true.
Tell me in a sentence what Angela Gheorghiu dreams of for the future, for your home and family. You have everything and people who don’t know you might say you have stepped on a red carpet from the beginning.
I try to be a normal person, to be with my family, with my girls, Ioana and Ornella, with Roberto. We had our ups and downs. I’ve said before I’m not too original in this aspect. You have no idea how it’s like to be away from home for you entire life. When I come home I only stay for a few days. My life is dedicated to what I was meant to do.
We stop here, but there’s place for more. Please promise that when you come back we’ll talk more because I have many other interesting questions to ask. People who listen to this broadcast and who call me after your broadcast performances to tell me how much they appreciate us having such a high classed Romanian voice, would like to hears us talking more.
It will be my pleasure if an opportunity shows up. Today I realized how enjoyable is to speak Romanian the entire day. It’s the second time in my life when this happens. It’s easier for me to speak in my native language. Usually I have to speak in many other languages but my own. I want people to discover the real Angela, the happy, nervous, serious, friendly, down to earth one for those who deserve it. I’ve always done everything with the greatest respect and love towards people who love what I love.
Thank you very much!
This is the end of this dialogue with Angela Gheorghiu. Everything she told us about herself, her colleagues and about art might make us listen to opera not differently but with more appreciation. It’s good when artists talk to us, as if guiding us, showing us the right path to follow. Today, the Human Voice is Angela Gheorghiu’s voice.