Angela Gheorghiu

Superstar Angela Gheorghiu, the most glamorous and gifted opera singer of our time, was born in the small Romanian town Adjud. From early childhood it was obvious that she will become a singer, her destiny was the music. Angela Gheorghiu is a Romanian soprano in demand the world over for leading roles in French and Italian operas, mostly of the 19th century. Her singing and career are spectacular in their own right, but Gheorghiu gained an added measure of fame and publicity from her partnership with her husband, the tenor Roberto Alagna, which whom she performed frequently; they were the world of opera's best.

Angela Gheorghiu, as befits the woman described as “the last of the divas”, doesn’t so much enter the hotel suite in Paris where we meet, as sweep in. She could have stepped out of an earlier age of glamour – she has the looks and the style. But, above all, she has that gorgeous voice. Many believe her to be the greatest soprano of our times.

Angela Gheorghiu, as befits the woman described as “the last of the divas”, doesn’t so much enter the hotel suite in Paris where we meet, as sweep in. She could have stepped out of an earlier age of glamour – she has the looks and the style. But, above all, she has that gorgeous voice. Angela Gheorghiu (Soprano) Born: September 7, 1965 - Adjud, Romania: The Romanian soprano, Angela Gheorghiu, is the daughter of a train driver. Along with her sister Elena, she sang opera music from a very early age. At age 13, she went to study singing at the Bucharest Music. Romanian-born Angela Gheorghiu is one of the most famous contemporary sopranos in the world. An intense and passionate stage actress, she is particular noted for her performances in the operas of Verdi and Puccini. Life and Music The daughter of a train driver, Angela sang opera music from a.

Angela Gheorghiu, as befits the woman described as “the last of the divas”, doesn’t so much enter the hotel suite in Paris where we meet, as sweep in. She could have stepped out of an earlier age of glamour – she has the looks and the style. But, above all, she has that gorgeous voice. Many believe her to be the greatest soprano of our times.

Born in Moldavia, she graduated from the Bucharest Music Academy in Romania in 1990 and made her debut at Covent Garden only two years later. But what rocketed her to stardom was her performance in La Traviata in 1994. Conductor Sir Georg Solti was moved to tears and insisted on casting her as Violetta. The BBC cleared a whole evening to broadcast her performance live from Covent Garden, while The Sunday Times described her voice as “a liquid instrument of great lyrical beauty with gleaming spun-gold notes” and proclaimed her a worthy successor to Maria Callas. Recording and live contracts and awards were showered on her.

In a ceremony conducted by Mayor Giuliani in New York in 1996 Gheorghiu married Sicilian-born tenor Roberto Alagna, and they became opera’s most glamorous couple – a seemingly unstoppable force.

Angela gheorghiu la boheme

Talking to Gheorghiu, you do get a sense of her steely determination to succeed. After all, she’s a train driver’s daughter from a small town in Eastern Europe who has become one of the most successful opera singers in the world.

“I knew from almost as far back as I can remember I would be an opera singer,” she explains.

Whatever the problems in Romania under Ceacescu’s communist dictatorship, Gheorghiu has no criticism of the music education: “There was classical music on the TV nearly every day. I remember watching things like Leonard Bernstein’s programmes about classical music with my father.”

She still has a house in Romania and remains loyal to her homeland, pointing out that “there have been many great Romanian singers, like Nelly Miricioiu. I think it’s a little unfair that in the East we learn all about the history and geography of the West, but people in the West know so little of Romania.”

I ask whether she had to perform in the mass communist rallies: “You had no choice. But I never sang in a choir, only by myself.”

She laughs, recognising this as a rather diva-like thing to say. I begin to see why some people in the opera world find her difficult to work with. When she was told she was expected to die in a hospital ward for Jonathan Miller’s production of La Traviata at the Bastille Opera, she declared: “Impossible! I die alone.” She tells me, with a wicked smile, that she thinks opera director and physician Miller should stick to being a doctor.

While there may be no love lost between Miller and Gheorghiu, other directors are more than happy to work with her. Sir Richard Eyre proclaimed her to be a “delight”, and she repays the compliment.

“He sat us down and read through the opera as though it was a play – then he gets to the music. He realises that when the rehearsals are over I’m alone on stage.”

But her favourite director is Franco Zeffirelli. “He adores opera and has such a feel for theatre. I wish all young directors could spend some time with him to understand the real atmosphere of theatre.”

Angela Gheorghiu

Gheorghiu is certainly a woman of strong opinions. But she is also charming, and fun. I tell her I was a little nervous of meeting her, because to read some of the stories in the press you’d think she was a bit of a monster.

She gives me her biggest smile yet, with just a hint of menace: “There is such a thing as a nice monster, you know.”

Her view is that “people like to create a scandal out of nothing. But none of that is remembered, what is remembered is beautiful work.”

She is very interested in posterity – a current obsession is with opera films, which can be seen by generations to come. She is planning a film of Carmen with director Carlos Saura.

Her latest CD is a collection of her best-known arias including Casta Diva from Norma, L’amour est enfant de bohème from Bizet’s Carmen among others.

“It’s a kind of greatest hits I suppose. There are some arias I adore and that audiences love as well.”

I ask her whether she would like to sing more contemporary music and she says, “I would love to. The problem with most of the modern music I hear is that it would ruin my voice.”

One idea she has had is to appear in a new opera as a figure such as Jackie Onassis. It’s easy enough to picture her as Jackie O, I say.

I add that she is very different from some other singers I’ve met, like Angelika Kirschlager, who turned up dressed fairly scruffily in jeans and a t-shirt. Gheorghiu disapproves of what she calls “anti-divas”.

“I know that I’m not like everyone else. The artist is someone who makes people dream, or makes them cry, who moves thousands of people. There is too much reality – I don’t want to see a star brushing their teeth in a movie.”

She thinks it absurd when wealthy people dress as though they were poor: “I saw some jeans on sale for £500 that had rips in them. How crazy is that?” (Gheorghiu would never be seen in public in any type of jeans. One story had her demanding a make-up artist and limo for an interview on Radio 3.)

While I like Kirschlager’s relaxed attitude, I do understand Gheorghiu’s point – I would be disappointed if I saw the Queen on the bus dressed in jeans.

“She is such a sweet person,” says Gheorghiu. It takes Classic FM a second to realise she means the Queen. “She is a friend of mine. I know all the Royals. Especially Prince Charles. Some people go to concerts to be seen, but he goes because he loves the music.”

When I ask her which other singers she admires, she names Aretha Franklin and Norah Jones, not mentioning any other opera singers except her husband.

“He is the best. There is no one like him,” she says loyally. Rumours of marital difficulties have surfaced recently, but she paints a picture of domestic bliss.

“We know how to switch off, to take time away from music, to watch movies and to be with our family.”

They look after Alagna’s child from his previous marriage and Gheorghiu’s sister’s child – her sister tragically died in a car accident. The family has a house in Switzerland and one in Romania, but she thinks of London as her other home. With EMI in London producing new records and further appearances booked at the Opera House, it looks like we will be seeing a lot more of this larger-than-life diva with one of the most stunning voices in the world.

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Gheorghiu

Angela Gheorghiu (Soprano)

Born: September 7, 1965 - Adjud, Romania

The Romanian soprano, Angela Gheorghiu, is the daughter of a train driver. Along with her sister Elena, she sang opera music from a very early age. At age 13, she went to study singing at the Bucharest Music Academy, primarily under Mia Barbu. Her graduation in 1989 (or 1990) coincided with the overthrow of Nicolae Ceauşescu, enabling her to seek out an international career immediately. Her profesional debut took place at the Cluj Opera as Mimì (La Bohème) in 1990.
Angela Gheorghiu made her international debut in 1992 at Covent Garden in London as Zerlina in Don Giovanni. She was offered Mimì in La Bohème, an important and difficult role, but she declined, preferring something less ambitious. Nevertheless, she made an excellent impression and in the same year went on to debut at the Staatsoper Vienna as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore and at the Metropolitan Opera as Mimi in La bohème. In 1994, she was auditioned by the great conductor Sir Georg Solti for a new production of La Traviata. When he heard her, he said: 'I was in tears. I had to go out. The girl is wonderful. She can do anything!'. It was in Covent Garden that she first sang her much acclaimed La Traviata in 1994, when BBC cleared out their schedule in order to broadcast the opera. That particular performance was also filmed and recorded by Decca. Really, her debut as Violetta led her to international stardom. Since then she has been in constant demand in opera houses and concert halls around the world: New York, London, Paris, Salzburg, Berlin, Tokyo, Rome, Seoul, Venice, Athens, Monte-Carlo, Chicago, Sao Paolo, Los Angeles, Lisbon, Palermo, Beirut, Amsterdam, Kuala Lumpur, Zürich, Vienna, Madrid, Montreal.
Angela Gheorghiu's first exclusive recording contract was signed in 1995 with Decca, where she made several recordings and videos / DVD’s: La Traviata with the Orchestra of the ROH Covent Garden, L’elisir d’amore with the Orchestra of Opera de Lyon, La Boheme with the Orchestra Filarmonica del Teatro Scala di Milano and the recitals Arias (Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Torino), Verdi Heroines (Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi), My World and Mysterium (with the London Philharmonic Orchestra).
Divorced from her first husband, from whom she retained her surname, Angela Gheorghiu married the French tenor Roberto Alagna in 1996. The couple have sung together often on stage and on studio recordings. Her next exclusive recording agreement was signed in 1998 with EMI Classics. She first recorded an album of Duets and Arias with Roberto Alagna and the Orchestra of the ROH Covent Garden, then she recorded Puccinis’s rarely played opera La Rondine (with the London Symphony Orchestra), Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette (with the Orchestre Capitol du Toulouse) and a second album of duets with Roberto Alagna, Verdi per due, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Other EMI recordings are: Gianni Schicchi (from Il Trittico), Massenet’s Werther with the London Symphony Orchestra, Massenet’s Manon with the Symphonic Orchestra de la Monnaie Bruxelles, Verdi’s Il Trovatore with the London Symphony Orchestra and Georges Bizet’s Carmen with the Orchestra Capitol du Toulouse. Her recital Casta Diva was followed by a live recording of her concert with the Dresden StaatskapelleClassics on a Summer’s Evening (CD and DVD), then by Verdi Requiem with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and by her 2001 Live from Covent Garden recital (CD and DVD). All her CD’s have enjoyed widespread critical acclaim ever since her debut and have been awarded many prizes such as Gramophone Awards, Diapason d’Or Awards, Choc du Monde de la Musique (France), Cecilia Prize (Belgium), Deutsche Schallplattenkritik-Preis (Germany), the Italian Musica e dischi - in the category Foreign Lyric Production Award, the USA Critics’ Award, Premio Zenatello (Verona), Echo Klassik (Singer of the Year, Frankfurt, 2002), etc. At the Classical Brit Award in 2001 she won the title Female Artist of the Year.
In December 2000 Angela Gheorghiu started filming for Tosca, in a movie in which she stars alongside Roberto Alagna. The Tosca sound track was released in November 2001 and has already had fantastic previews from Opera News (USA): 'She's one of the most sensuous Toscas imaginable....Angela Gheorghiu's passion and beauty are ideal for Tosca, as if the best qualities of Callas's and Tebaldi's portrayals had come together.' The film is due for cinema release in the UK in May; the USA in July/August and in Italy and Greece in April. The British Press have commented enthusiastically: 'This is a work for which EMI has long offered a benchmark recording - Maria Callas with Victor de Sabata – yet this new recording in many ways surpasses it. More clearly than anything I have heard in years, this is a classic of the future... Alagna makes a strong and virile Cavaradossi... [Gheorghiu's] is a great performance, as magnetic as Callas's, rich and beautiful as well as dramatic.' The Guardian, November 2001; 'Antonio Pappano's conducting alone would make this a Tosca of distinction... Gheorghiu is worthy of the highest comparisons... [Alagna] is in fine voice... The recording is all that could be wished.' Gramophone, Recording of the month, December 2001.
Among major appearances 2000-2001 season was Roméo et Juliette at Covent Garden in February/March 2000, for which her performance alongside Roberto Alagna in the title roles received rave reviews, and Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in October 2000. Engagements then included Gala concerts and appearances at the Royal Opera House, Hampton Court, and Royal Festival Hall (all in London) and New York’s Met, in the Summer of 2001, as well as La bohème at the Bastille in Paris at the end of October 2001. In January 2001 she performed in Verdi’s Requiem again with Alagna and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The evening was recorded live in Berlin and released in August 2001. She also took part in the historic performance at the “Proms at the Palace” on June 1, 2002 to mark the Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (DVD). Among major appearances in 2002-2003 season there were the enthusiastically applauded performances of La Rondine and Pagliacci in Covent Garden, Romeo et Juliette at the Choregies d’Orange and at the Festival of Salzburg, Faust at the Met in New York, as well as major recitals in Seoul (South Korea), Athens (Greece), the Vatican and at the Salzburg Festival. EMI Classics released two exciting new opera recordings with her: in July 2002 a complete recording of Verdi's Il trovatore, with Roberto Alagna and Antonio Pappano, and in February 2003 a new recordings of G. Bizet's ever-popular Carmen, in which she was accompanied once again by Roberto Alagna and conductd this time by Michel Plasson.
The year 2003 began in the USA with performances of Pagliacci in Palm Beach, in January, and at the Met in New York, in March, with C. Gounod's Faust. July 2003 saw her at Covent Garden once again in Pagliacci. The year 2004 started with performances of Simon Boccanegra, then a new production of Faust in the ROH Covent Garden. Angela Gheorghiu's future projects include concerts in Bruxelles, Rotterdam, as well as performances of La Boheme in Turin and Los Angeles as well as performances of La Rondine in London. In the near future she will also make her appearance in Lucia di Lammermoor, Adriana Lecouvreur, Tosca, Lucrezia Borgia, Don Carlos and Don Giovanni.
Angela Gheorghiu is one of the most famous contemporary sopranos. Her magnificent voice and dazzlinstage presence revealed her to the world as a unique opera star. A fiery and intense stage actress, she has a particular affinity for the operas of Verdi. A lyric dramatic soprano with a large range and a dark coloured voice, she is also able to sing spinto roles. On the other hand, having an impeccable musicianship and a gorgeous voice, she's also a great interpreter of French roles. She also performs and records the music of her native Romania, whether operatic, lieder, popular or Orthodox church music. Her operatic repertoire includes roles Mimì in La bohème, Violetta in La Traviata, Adina in L’Elisir d’amore, Liù in Turandot, Micaela in Carmen, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Magda in La Rondine, Suzel in L’Amico Fritz, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Manon in Manon and Charlotte in Werther. In the future she will appear in Luisa Miller, Pagliacci, Faust, Adriana Lecouvreur, Lucia di Lammermoor, LaSonnambula, Tosca, Lucrezia Borgia and Simon Boccanegra.
Angela Gheorghiu is also famous for her beauty and was recently chosen the 74th most beautiful women in the world by the magazine FHM. But, above all, the Romanian soprano is noted for her creamy and flexible voice, her rare musicianship and the deep and intense portrays of her characters.
Angela Gheorghiu was honoured with “La Medaille Vermeille de la Ville de Paris” and appointed “Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres” by the French Ministry of Culture and by her native country Romania.


Source: EMI Classics Website (April 2002); Angela Gheroghiu Website (August 2004); Encyclopedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2005)

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