sat 20/07/2024

Angela Gheorghiu, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Angela Gheorghiu, Royal Festival Hall

Angela Gheorghiu, Royal Festival Hall

Gheorghiu spearheads Romanian invasion of the South Bank

Can Angela Gheorghiu burn as brightly without Roberto Alagna?photo: Sasha Gusov

The famously tempestuous Romanian soprano is, we learn, living a separate life from her husband Roberto Alagna. If Opera's Most Romantic Couple is no more, will Brand Angela be terminally damaged? Surely a showcase performance in the South Bank's International Voices season would be just the thing to rally the faithful and reaffirm Ms Gheorghiu's spectacular star quality, but I must admit that by the time we reached the interval, I was beset with gnawing doubt.

The performance had begun with a bright canter through Leonard Bernstein's Candide overture, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by the soprano's fellow countryman Ion Marin, but it must have taken diligent research to have selected a piece so transparently unconnected to the rest of the programme, which comprised Italian opera with a bit of French on the side. Worse, Gheorghiu was partnered by the Romanian tenor Marius Manea, who managed to hit most of the notes most of the time but radiated as much charisma as a row of deck chairs. Besides, this was supposed to be a Gheorghiu show, so we can safely assume that nobody had bought tickets to hear the world's most anonymous tenor, nor for that matter the excessive number of orchestral interludes.
Gheorghiu's greatest asset has always been the heat she can generate with her voice, which lets her seize a melodic line and melt it into new shapes as if it were modelling clay, but her vocal radar was having difficulty locking on to its targets. In Verdi's "Parigi, o cara" she was modestly convincing but far from heartrending. Her duet with Manea in Donizetti's "Caro elisir" (from L'Elisir d'Amore) was so laborious it was like watching workmen digging a trench. Gheorghiu_pale_trim
At least she kept us amused with her costumes. For part one, she was sheathed in a tight black backless creation with rhinestone traceries, trimmed with politically incorrect fur. In part two, after the band had played Mascagni's Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, Angela vibrated onstage in an equally figure-squeezing crimson number. It seemed to bolster her confidence, because even though she lost her place during Mascagni's "Cherry Duet", she then struck up a powerful vocal blend with Manea and finished the piece at a gallop.
The tenor dissipated the momentum with a diabolical extract from Verdi's Luisa Miller, where he seemed to be in a different key to the orchestra, but Angela riposted with her most dramatic style statement yet. This time she materialised in a semi-transparent glittery tube draped with hanging pink and green silk, which would have made her a shoo-in for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The garment ushered in a more carefree mood, because while the programme offically ended with the singers duetting on Puccini's "O soave fanciulla", they delivered their most exuberant performances in a string of encores. Gheorghiu's "O mio babbino caro" and flamboyantly Hispanic "Granada" were capped with a crowd-pleasing "Libiamo", Marin drolly conducting the audience clapalong and even singing a line himself. Bravo, maestro! This was a game of three halves, and the last of them should have shown up much earlier.

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I fort she were grate.


Hilarious. Love the fact that a writer reviewing a classical concert can write about Ange's "backless creation with rhinestone traceries, trimmed with politically incorrect fur" as well as making such entertaining and non-cliched observations on the music itself.


Adam Sweeting's comments on both music & fashion are very entertaining. We need more writers of his calibre!!!

ENCORE, ENCORE, ENCORE. More writing from Adam is what this depressed nation needs. Have you thought of turning your skills to political satire?

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