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Something I like

JDD in conversation with Dame Janet Baker, on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Great interview!

To celebrate this great lady, the London Jewish Cultural Center in London organizes a special event on October 15, Dame Janet Baker In Conversation with Edward Seckerson. Tickets still available here. Lucky Londoners!

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Perfect blue

 Taken right before the concert in Bodrum last week

Angela Gheorghiu and Teodor Ilincai
Photo @Facebook

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PHOTOS - Concert in Bodrum, August 24

What a great concert! Not only Angela's amazing voice, but also the atmosphere, the care of the organizers for each and every detail, the conductor, Ramon Tebar, paying attention to every sound of the soloists and orchestra and the talented and good looking tenor, the Romanian Teodor Ilincai. It was a concert under the star, on sea shore. Perfect combination.  

My favs? I have three: L'altra note in fondo al mare, Song to the Moon and Copacul. Perfect, simply perfect. I thought my third choice would be subjective, but I was wrong. You should have seen and heard the audience applauding at the end! As if it was in their own language, not a foreign one. And I know why, because Angela is telling a story when singing. No matter if you understand or not the lyrics, her voice catches your thoughts and carries them throughout the song. No moment of break, no space for breathing. It was a spell. The wind blowing in the beautiful, silky, white dress (see the last photos below) counted a lot too. Great choice!

This was the program

Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro - Overture
Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro - Giunse al fin il momento...Deh, vieni, non tardar - Angela Gheorghiu
Verdi - La Traviata - Parigi, o cara - Angela Gheorghiu, Teodor Ilincai
Verdi - Rigoletto - Questa o quella - Teodor Ilincai
Puccini - Manon Lescaut - Intermezzo
Boito - Mefistofele - L'altra notte in fondo al mare - Angela Gheorghiu
Gounod - Romeo et Juliette - Va! Je t'ai pardonne - Angela Gheorghiu, Teodor Ilincai

Verdi - Vespri Siciliani - Overture
Verdi - Otello - Gia nella notte densa - Angela Gheorghiu, Teodor Ilincai
Massenet - Cherubin - Aubade: Vive amour - Angela Gheorghiu
Puccini - Turandot - Nessun dorma - Teodor Ilincai
Bizet - Farandole - L'Arlesienne Suite #2
Dvorak - Rusalka - Song to the Moon - Angela Gheorghiu
Puccini  La Boheme - O soave fanciulla - Angela Gheorghiu, Teodor Ilincai

A Vouchella - Angela Gheorghiu
Copacul - Angela Gheorghiu
Be my love - Teodor Ilincai
O mio babbino caro - Angela Gheorghiu
Non ti scordar di me - Angela Gheorghiu, Teodor Ilincai
Granada - Angela Gheorghiu, Tedor Ilincai

Got to listen to an amazing concert, got involved with huge pleasure in its development, got a sun tan envied by all my colleagues at work. Me happy! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

PS: Hint! Click on the first photo to open the slideshow and see the photos in a higher resolution!

Angela Gheorghiu and conductor Ramon Tebar

Angela Gheorghiu, Teodor Ilincai (left), Ramon Tebar (right)

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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. 

Before starting reading part three, you might want to read again part one and part two.


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”. 

The End

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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

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Interview in Forbes Romania - English translation - Part 1

This interview entitled "Angela Gheorghiu: The Story" by Sorana Savu was published in Forbes Romania at the beginning of May. I wanted to translate this because I liked it a lot. It took me a while because it's very long but now it's ready.
It's among my favorite interviews ever because of the approach (and you'll see it's not a regular Q&A), of the atmosphere, of the tone, of the personal touch, and most of all because it's well documented offering me new info. Congrats to Mrs Savu and thank you very much for allowing me to translate and post it!

The Romanian version is available online, on the website of Forbes Romania.

Enjoy the first part (out of three)!


Angela Gheorghiu: The Story"
By Sorana Savu

You don’t need to read too much about Angela Gheorghiu or talk to her at length to realize she lives a life of luxury. And I’m not talking about the beauty of stages she performs on, the level of the fees she receives, the value of her personal brand or other material goods. In the world of opera, being yourself has its own price. It’s a luxury. Colleagues of hers say that after years and years of career they still can’t say no to directors or conductors, preferring to hide and cry in their dressing rooms.

Whenever she says no, Angela Gheorghiu is taking full responsibility for a lot of things – not only the nasty nicknames randomly given by journalists who have no idea where Romania is on a map, nor the disappointment of the audience that bought the tickets months in advance and find out that she cancelled at the last moment, but also the probability of losing some future engagements. It’s a tough perspective in the world of opera where nothing lasts forever.

Some say she doesn’t know humility. But if she were any different (which is out of question for her, anyway), she would be accused of hypocrisy. Being internationally famous and having such a strong character, you are bound to have both fans and detractors. It’s hard to find the middle way and to keep it.

She admits that sometimes her stories do seem arrogant but since they are true, there’s no other way to tell them. After all, she is not the only talented person who found her calling at a very young age and is willing to talk about it.

Every now and then such people do appear – they are discovered early and those around them witness their talent and energy during ever so early as elementary school or high school. They are appreciated and guided. All the doors open for them, good things happen to them. Angela Gheorghiu is among those people for whom the stars have been aligning for almost 25 years.

If you judge the situation through the eyes of a regular person who has worked for each step of his or her Co, who has faced drawbacks and hasn’t been able achieve the goals despite the struggle, it’s frustrating to hear things like this. But still, they’re true. Her 20-year career proves it and for the skeptics there are always the videos on YouTube, the DVDs and CDs as well the possibility of listening to anything and comparing her to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

“If you leave aside the words – that I, or the journalists, or my friends, or my fans say – there’s something that will remain true beyond all conversations, and that is the result of my work. Our work is what remains after all of us  - when everything has been said and done. My legacy is my art. I took a lot of time to create it, I had time to prove myself”

As she said, knowing very well that her statements may sound arrogant, Angela Gheorghiu didn’t have time to wish for something. She was, she did. She accomplished.

Before 1989 she often appeared in TV broadcasts. Young Angela Burlacu, a soprano like no other – full of life, emotion and character – shining in a dull, somber and stiff environment. As a freshman student at the Music Conservatory in Bucharest, having graduated from the Music High School under Mia Barbu’s guidance, Angela Gheorghiu had already achieved (and was merely polishing) her vocal talent and self-confidence.

The formal or informal feedbacks of those close to her regarding her performances, made her quickly understand that her gift was special. Besides the criticism and shy compliments that we share with an artist, the music has the tendency of revealing the most genuine and spontaneous emotions.

These reactions taught Angela Gheorghiu how high she could aim and she was not afraid to do it. Legendary Romanian TV producer Iosif Sava told her before a TV broadcast, that she would become famous one day. “I was 18, it was my first month at the Conservatory and there was a live broadcast with Iosif Sava. I remember him saying: all you have to do now is to practice, but in good time you will sing at the Metropolitan, no worries about that”

The simple remark was not a trifle – considering that this happened in times when it was difficult for Romanians to have a passport, let alone get a US visa. When a career was equal to “being appointed there”, “being sent somewhere else” with or without consent; when traveling abroad or having a career were not among individual freedoms.

“Iosif Sava’s words meant a lot to me even if back then he might have said them with a smile. Without false modesty, I understood what I had to do from the beginning, judging from the reaction of my colleagues; people came back to Romania after performing abroad, all those big names of the Romanian music. I knew I had a destiny, a course to follow and beautiful people around me from whom I had a lot to learn”

The live broadcasts, the constant proximity of the world of theatre and television added to the velvet voice with a unique timbre (a rare thing in opera) and to her undisputed charisma, the experience of working in front of a camera and a full understanding of acting and its limitations.

We know that she performed in front of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, President Barak Obama, but not too many know that Angela Gheorghiu also performed in front of Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1986. At 21, unwillingly, she had already become the unofficial ambassador of Romania.

To be continued

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Vienna concert promo poster

Eye witnesses report :)
Big posters promoting Angela Gheorghiu's concert at Wiener Konzerthaus in Viena on November 23, the one I was talking about yesterday. 
The tickets will go on sale pretty soon, on September 2. Take a look here

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Charles Castronovo to join Angela Gheorghiu for the concert in Vienna

There is a very nice website created for the Great voices series at the Wiener Konzerthaus. On Angela Gheorghiu's special page it is announced that Charles Castronovo will join her for the concert on November 23. Being their first appearance together in a concert, I'm looking forward to surprises in the program & encores.
Giordano Bellincampi will conduct the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra for this last concert of Angela's tour.

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Great voices in Vienna starting Nov 23

Buhne magazine announces the "Great Voices" five concert series at the Wiener Konzerthaus which will be opened by Angela Gheorghiu on November 23.
Subscriptions are already available for sale on the website of the venue. Single tickets go on sale on September 2

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Adriana Lecouvreur on ARTE, August 12

ARTE is broadcasting this beautiful 2010 Royal Opera House production starring Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann.

Late night or early opera delight, as you wish. It starts on August 12 at 1:35am on French Arte

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Program for the concert in Amsterdam, 24.09

According to the website of Concertgebouw, this is the concert program for September 24

Mozart - Ouverture (uit 'Le nozze di Figaro', KV 492)
Händel - Aria 'Frondi tenere...Ombra mai fu' (uit 'Serse', HWV 40)
Mozart - Recitatief en aria 'Giunse alfin il momento ... Deh vieni, non tardar' (uit 'Le nozze di Figaro')
Berlioz - Le carnaval romain, H 95, op. 9 'Ouverture caractéristique'
Massenet - Vive l'amour (uit 'Chérubin')
Dvořák - Lied van de maan (uit 'Rusalka', op. 114)
Hérold - Ouverture (uit 'Zampa, ou la fiancée de marbre')
Massenet - Aria 'Adieu, notre petite table' (uit 'Manon')
Massenet - Aria 'Pleurez, pleurez mes yeux' (uit 'Le Cid')
Ponchielli - Danza delle ore del giorno (uit 'La Gioconda')
Spontini - Aria 'O nume tutelar' (uit 'La vestale')
Puccini - Aria 'O mio babbino caro' (uit 'Gianni Schicchi')
Catalani - Aria 'Ebben? Ne andrò lontana' (uit 'La Wally')

Massenet x 3! And Ebben.. haven't heard that in ages! Hurray!

Angela Gheorghiu will be joined onstage by the Het Gelders Orkest conducted by Ramon Tebar. The tickets are already on sale on the website of the venue

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Tosca DVD on the Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2013 shortlist

Tosca DVD, the 2011 Royal Opera House production released by EMI is part of the Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2013 shortlist in the opera section. 

This all star cast (Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel) should be unbeatable in the competition with the other nominees (Wozzeck from the Bolshoi, Iphigenie eh Aulide from the Netherlands Opera, Il Trittico from the Royal Opera House and Lohengrin from Berlin). Gramophone published reviews for each of them here.

On August 27 Gramophone will reveal the 11 recordings, which have been voted the best in category. Three weeks later – on September 17 – one of those 11 will be named our Recording of the Year at an event in London. We can't vote, it's the professionals' job to choose. Just sit back and wait!

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The Times. La Traviata. The proof

It's the article in The Times, the one in which Neil Fisher says that the 1994 La Traviata at the Royal Opera House starring Angela Gheorghiu impressed him most in his long operatic experience. I have already wrote about it, but a friend of mine took these pictures (thanks!) and I thought to share the layout in the printed version

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Something I like

THE Traviata that Neil Fisher named his best experience ever. I realized I haven't watched it in a while. There is a playlist on Youtube containing almost the entire performance. 

Sempre libera... Feeling nostalgic...

Have a great weekend!

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Neil Fisher says: La Traviata!

The Times asked its top critics to choose an event that impressed them most in their entire career. Neil Fisher's choice is La Traviata, the Royal Opera House production from 1994 starring Angela Gheorghiu. Yes, that famous La Traviata. Mr Fisher's comments can be bitter sometimes, but if recalls Angela's voice and presence as his best moments in his years and years of going to the opera, then... chapeau!

No one knew of Angela Gheorghiu when the young Romanian soprano was given the title role in the the Royal Opera's new Verdi production — least of all Gheorghiu herself. She would later baptise herself Covent Garden's resident diva, with all the unnecessary accoutrements that the position required. For now, however, she was just Verdi's tragic courtesan, innocent and desperate, and singing the role of Violetta (conducted by Georg Solti) with melting sincerity and ardour. The BBC took the extraordinary step of clearing their schedules and broadcasting the complete performance on television — imagine! — and a million people tuned in. Nothing compared to the experience inside the theatre, where the audience was stamping its feet for the soprano to come out again and again for another ovation. Hopefully the BBC cameras didn't catch me, standing at the back of the stalls circle, bawling like a baby. [Neil Fisher for The Times]

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