Part 3 - Interview in Forbes Romania - English translation
So we got to the last part of this interview in Forbes Romania entitled "Angela Gheorghiu - The Story". Hope you liked it. Judging by the hits on the blog these days, many people did.
If you see Angela Gheorghiu’s daily or five year schedule it is impossible not to notice how the predictable and the unpredictable constantly collide.
Future engagements are set long time ahead and they’re carefully negotiated. But last minute changes are possible. For a person addicted to stability and discipline, this kind of life would be hard to bear. Angela seems to manage everything from a neutral spot. She allows everything to take place, but not randomly. She evaluates the unpredictable and avoids the inevitable on every occasion.
This approach is useful to be able to survive in the world of opera where everything can happen. A recent example is the incident at the beginning of “La Boheme” at the Royal Opera House when the curtain was stuck and did not rise for 30 minutes.
The reason was not the temper of a diva but a mechanical failure. When the curtain finally rose it didn’t go down until the end of the performance. The audience could see the set changes that are not usually public. The diva was there and she shined, twenty years from her debut, wearing the same costumes, with the same emotions performing the same role, Mimi.
Careful training helps a lot. And the fact that twenty years later Angela Gheorghiu got to work with so many people around the world secures her from “delicate situations”. There are those kinds of situations that drew the reputation of a difficult person – just because it’s easier to blame the other person’s temper in order to cover your own professional shortcomings.
“I try to find out in advance who I’m working with, I try to prevent situations. I did this only once – I arrived on the first day of rehearsals – and people told me “have trust” (and she had to withdraw), “but it’s better and wiser to know things in advance and prevent them and not to put anyone in awkward situations. I reckon for my actions, as any other person in the theatre is. I’m aware that the audience comes to see me performing and I have to be very well prepared. I need to be very careful”
She’s a modern woman who makes experiments every day but she sacredly observes the scores. She defends them, even in front of the directors. That being known, she recognizes she is being used to solve someone else’s issues using her name and reputation. It’s not comfortable but Angela Gheorghiu doesn’t stand back.
Her career and the legacy of the great sopranos of the past have made her understand that in opera, the classic and close to the original score approach lasts while the avant-garde productions lapse. People are still coming to see Zeffirelli’s productions, the director who worked with Callas. The successful productions are stored for many years in the basements of the opera houses. “After 23 years I tell to myself “I was right”, I keep thinking that way. I had enough time to understand that I was right”
Despite the fashion of hiring directors from other fields of entertainment to shake opera up, Angela Gheorghiu draws the line. “I have to complain about elite of the international directors that come unprepared for the new production – they don’t know the libretto, they don’t even understand the language the libretto was written in. In theatre you’re not allowed to stage one of Shakespeare’s plays if you don’t speak English. Well, these situations are frequent in opera”
The innovations suggested by these enthusiasts are not limited to sets, acting and costume, as one would expect. A “Romeo et Juliette” staging meant to reflect Buz Luhrmann’s revolutionary opera on the big screen asked Angela not only to wear jeans (that would fit her perfectly in any case) but also to sing Julietta’s waltz with rock accents. Do listen to Julietta’s waltz and imagine what your reaction would have been.
The courage of saying NO
Besides admitting the limitations, Angela Gheorghiu felt the value of a reasoned “no”. “In time people started to understand me, but when you’re at the beginning it’s not good to talk about these backstage situations – why can she say no and we can’t? In time I preferred the transparency, I talk a lot and I want to share my experiences, such as the courage of saying a reasoned “no”. Many people can’t afford to say that, they’re afraid of not being hired again. If they all do it, it would be better”
“You have to reflect on every reaction, you don’t have to rush. You need to have a strong motivation and to understand that there’s a tomorrow after each performance. This is something I learned from my teacher, Mia Barbu”
Between money and self-esteem when not going on stage is a last minute decision, Angela Gheorghiu chooses the latter, knowing that not everyone will understand her perspective and that the disappointment of the audience sometimes surpasses any other reason. She also knows that this kind of incident, centered on her, will be quickly underlined by the press and will link to her “reputation”.
“What matters for me and for the public is what I’m doing, not what I’m not doing. What I don’t do, doesn’t exist so why should we talk about that? It’s a consolation, a regret, that’s all. I’m not masochist, I don’t want to hurt anyone, I don’t want to hurt myself. But I would ask the people in the audience how often they woke up not being able to utter a sound. Imagine you’re an artist and this happens to you… I don’t go on stage only to take the fee for that performance. I take all these risks and it’s not easy. I want to be perfect on stage. Honestly, I don’t like to start singing a phrase and realize I won’t be able to get all the way through”
“I still live my memories”
Angela goes on. Having plans and important projects for the next few years, she doesn’t think too much about what’s left behind but tries to put the future in order “it’s not good to know you’ve reached a certain point, there isn’t such thing. For me what matters most is to still be on top, to have something to say. As I used to say, I still live my memories”.