Part 2 - Interview in Forbes Romania - English translation
After 1989, Angela Gheorghiu’s career developed with speed of light. “During the Romanian revolutionary period I received a call from a Dutch television. They wanted to ask me to sing an entire concert. I was a student; I had already had an audition at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and then, this concert. We live in a mass media era, when you make your debut on an important stage everyone knows you and wants you the next day”
After making her debut as Mimi in “La Boheme” (she celebrated its 20th anniversary last year), “La Traviata” at the Royal Opera House in 1994 is one of the milestones of the career. Her Violetta, under Georg Solti’s baton, made the BBC stop their regular programming to broadcast this live performance. To be honest, how often do you hear that a TV station cleared the program to broadcast an opera performance? Before or after 1994?
Also in 1994 she came back to Romania together with one of the most famous tenors of the world, Placido Domingo. She had already been singing on the greatest stages of the world for four years. She had no time to wish for something else.
There are publications that call her the most famous soprano in the world, others that name her the brightest. Having the advantage of a profession with an universal language, Angela Gheorghiu is part of a universal heritage and from her position she’s proud of being Romanian.
Half of the songs from the recital in Los Angeles in March were in Romanian. Next October she’ll perform the same program at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. In the meantime, she sings Romanian lieder everywhere in Europe. At the O2 Arena in London, Angela Gheorghiu sang Zsolt Kerestely’s “Copacul” in front of thousands of people. With an unbelievable tenacity, Angela Gheorghiu states she’s Romanian, no matter the stage she sings on or the journalist she talks to. Her name was also part of the campaign entitled “Why don’t you come over?”. It should be like this: she is a celebrated soprano at the Royal Opera House.
She rarely sings in Romania and she speaks her mind regarding the reasons. “I didn’t want to sing at the National Opera in Bucharest. The day everything changes there, you might see me there, this is the condition. More than that, in the past 23 years there’s this idea that any Romanian artist having a career abroad is invited to sing here for free. I don’t know any other country that does the same. Especially know when renowned artists in various fields come to Romania and get huge fees”
To be clear, we’re not talking about charity shows but about shows people pay to see, the organizers fight for funds and broadcast rights are signed. “When I wanted to be part of charities or when someone asked for my support, I was there; I have a long list with these kinds of activities but it is private, because I do it for myself, not for gaining credit”.
Acknowledging the differences, it is as if you are the President of a transnational company, part of Forbes 100 and you’re asked to manage a government owned company for only 300 euro a month. “I want my country to appreciate me, same as any other artist coming to Romania. As any artist is respected for his or her true value, I expect that the Romanian artists, including myself, to be invited here and showed the same respect as anywhere in the world. If this happens, then I’ll say yes to proposals”
After a 20 year career and fees that often overcome 100.000 euro and keep coming year after year, the financial matters of Angela Gheorghiu’s career are more a question of principle, respect and internal politics. She doesn’t say anything about not singing in Romania to the foreign press. When she’s there, she’s focused on other Romanian artists, to support and promote them.
Paradoxically, in order for everything we see on stage to be genuine, natural, limitless, Angela Gheorghiu tells us how important it is to know, acknowledge and understand your own limitations.
The voice comes from God and is the ultimate gift. It’s not insured, despite its exceptional value. She insures it, by protecting, training and respecting it. No cold water, no air conditioning, no abuses.
She learnt this long time ago, also from Mia Barbu. She advised her to be very careful when choosing when to sing. This doesn’t mean you don’t give your best on stage, it means that each time you sing you’re absolutely perfect. It’s not good to experiment on yourself in front of an audience.
David Ohanesian told her the same thing in the beginning. The fact she was in her early years is underlined by an appellation Angela recalls smiling “doll, never sing too much, too loud or too high”. She preserved the youthful effervescence, it’s contagious and it shows during a conversation, but I don’t know who’d address Angela Gheorghiu these days calling her “doll”.
What she heard and learned when she was young she remembered and internalized during her career. There are familiar principles for the business environment. There are concise lessons told by top level entrepreneurs. It’s so easy to utter them, but how complicated it is to assume them and to actually used them in everyday life…
“I learned a phrase from each person, they’re part of my DNA and I try to put them into practice. They’re not just words to me. You should be wise enough to put into practice what you learned for your own good”
To be continued