Angela Gheorghiu

Opening of La Rondine

Angela Gheorghiu, Photo by Terrence McCarthy* Notes *
Puccini's La Rondine opened at San Francisco Opera yesterday. This co-production with
Le Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse and Royal Opera, Covent Garden is easy on the eye. Ezio Frigerio's set is beautiful, evoking Gustav Klimt and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Likewise, Franca Squarciapino's Roaring Twenties costumes are quite pretty. The choreography and dancing were solid, especially in Act II, set in a dance hall.

Angela Gheorghiu made her long-awaited debut at San Francisco Opera as Magda de Civry. She sounded surprisingly tentative in Act I, particularly in "Che il bel sogno." Her high notes were sung on key, but not with complete conviction. Some of her lower notes were difficult to hear, and sometimes her breathing was rather audible. Her acting was strangely timid as well, her shoulders hunched. She is gorgeous, I would never have guessed she is 42 years old, just a few years younger than Karita Mattila. I kept comparing Gheorghiu to Mattila during the evening, it was impossible for me to not think of the latter's strong performance in Manon Lescaut last season. Both La Rondine and Manon Lescaut are less popular Puccini works, both singers sang with Misha Didyk in the lead tenor role. However, Mattila was fully engaged as Manon, and one cannot say the same for Gheorghiu as Magda.

Misha Didyk had good volume as Ruggero Lastouc, though his voice can be harsh at times. Tenor Gerard Powers (Prunier) was more pleasing, but one of his high notes in Act III was strained and unpleasant. Anna Christy sounded bright and sprightly as Lisette, she was perfectly delightful.

* Tattling *
Standing room was full, as was most of the orchestra level and the boxes. I was somewhat disturbed that the house manager of the opera house was not there, this is the first time in four seasons that I have attended in standing room and have not seen him about.

The audience was reasonably well-behaved. There was a particular man jangling his keys in orchestra level standing room that was vaguely annoying. Another man in Z 113 rustled a plastic bag that he kept his cough drops and water bottle in, and I was reminded of how I cannot wait for San Francisco's plastic bag ban. The woman in ZZ 111 spoke slightly too much during the first half of the opera and stood up at one point to trade seats with her companion. During the second half she was on oxygen, and her breaths were rather loud, so I had to retreat over to another area. Obviously, she couldn't help it, but it was difficult at first for me to discern where the gasps were coming from and I spent too much time worrying that I had lost my mind.


Angela Gheorghiu Concert at LA Opera

Gheorghiu* Notes *
Soprano Angela Gheorghiu gave a concert in Los Angeles last Saturday. The program was divided into a French section and an Italian section, there was much Gounod, Massenet, and Puccini. The orchestra played several overtures, some interspersed with the arias to give Gheorghiu time to rest or change outfits.

Gheorghiu's technique is excellent, and her voice is lovely. Her choice in arias was not exciting at all, though her renditions of the "Habanera" and "Pace, pace mio Dio" were strong. In general, she seemed rather detached from the music, this was especially noticeable in the Puccini.

Eugene Kohn did not keep the orchestra together, his conducting was not something I'd care to hear again.

* Tattling *
Angela Gheorghiu gave 5 encores, including a song in Romanian and "I Could Have Danced All Night." She sang the latter quite terribly, just as an opera singer would. She also wore three different gowns during the evening, a orange-red one, a white maternity-looking one, and a black-beaded spidery one.


Simon Boccanegra at the Met

Simon Boccanegra* Notes *
Giancarlo del Monaco's current production of Simon Boccanegra at the Met is traditional, the set and costumes, by Michael Scott, are lavish and exceedingly beautiful. The one weakness was the scene changes, some took a long time and people would start chattering and momentum was lost. Even still, Fabio Luisi had a fine handle on the music, the tempi were good. Angela Gheorghiu cut a fine figure as Amelia, her voice is precise, her tones silvery. Tenor Marcello Giordani strained somewhat as Gabriele, but was not bad. Thomas Hampson was convincing in the title role, his voice is warm and pleasing, but most impressive was bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fiesco. The acting was all splendid, everyone fit their parts and nothing was out of place.

* Tattling *
There was some chatter but it subsided by the second half, except during the aforementioned scene changes. There were some cellular phone rings and watch alarms that went off as well.


Ferragosto

GheorghiumastromarinoThe current Los Angeles Opera production of Pagliacci is surprisingly good, especially when one considers the opera company is a mere 20 years old. Franco Zeffirelli brought the staging into the 20th century, the set was urban, the costumes were fit for a disco, but there was also a roller blader, so a bit of a mix. There were a bunch of acrobats, a person on stilts, a live donkey, drag queens, and confetti.

Tenor Roberto Alagna seemed somewhat hesitant at first as Canio. His voice is light with a slightly reedy nasality. But his voice came through for Recitar...Vesti la giubba at the end of Act I, and he sang well in Act II. Soprano Angela Gheorghiu also has a fresh light voice without much heft, but still has sufficient volume. She also is extremely attractive, and thus quite believable as Nedda.

Baritone Mariusz Kwiecien held his own as Silvio, this part is to be sung by Rodney Gilfry in the last two performances this season, but for now Gilfry is only singing in The Grand Duchess. Kwiecien was very good in La Bohème at San Francisco Opera a few seasons ago, and this time around I was impressed by how warm and rich his voice is compared to the two leads. On the other hand, though baritone Alberto Mastromarino acted well in the part of Tonio, he lacked control and was off key at times.

The choreography and costumes both came off well. The most lovely costume was Columbina's, a frothy pink skirt with black polka dots and swallows paired with a tight high-collared black blouse with pink-sequined trim.

The patrons of LA opera are terribly noisy, whispering a great deal, and applauding at every little thing. After the Act II overture there was so much clapping that the conductor had the orchestra rise to be acknowledged further. The opera also started with the Star-Spangled Banner, for Patriot Day, one imagines, but this was not stated.