Puccini - Angela Gheorghiu
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Giacomo Puccini Puccini UK 2-CD album set
It would be difficult to fault the singing of Angela Gheorghiu on these discs (the second, bonus CD contains "Vissi d'arte" from her complete recording of Tosca). She goes through almost the entire Puccini catalog of heroines--Mimi and Musetta, Liu, Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Liu and Turandot, Lauretta, Suor Angelica, Minnie (from Fanciulla), as well as the gals from La Rondine, Edgar, and Le Villi, and her exquisite, fine-grained, unique sound--with its dusky lower register--is always interesting and beautifully inflected. Her attention to dynamics is admirable, verbally, she seems genuinely involved in each character. The voice can deliver as much power, as in the end of the first Edgar aria, as gentleness, in Suor Angelica's "Senza Mamma" as needed. But somehow she doesn't make any one of the characters entirely her own. This may be a bit picky, but maybe that's the case with recital albums. Let's face it--her voice is irresistible and her husband, Roberto Alagna, adds his bronzed tones to two of the selections. --Robert Levine
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Gheorghiu was born for Puccini and I cannot think of any other soprano - contemporary or past - who understood him as well as she does. This album shows what a tremendously gifted and detail-oriented musician Gheorghiu is. The arias are right for her voice; her legato and phrasing are impeccable. The overtones of her voice are so complex and so rich! Callas had her strengths, but at least in the Puccini repertoire Angela is simply the best.
If you are not familiar with her discography and you'd like more Puccini, be aware that Angela has award-winning recordings of several Puccini operas, including Madama Butterfly, Tosca, La Rondine, Il Tritico, and La Boheme.
Angela Gheorghiu sings wonderfully here. She's using all the power and versatility of her voice in order to sing some of the most complex heroines ever. Curiously, as we listen to the whole album, it's clear the real highlights of it aren't the worldly famous arias from Madama Butterfly or La Bohème, but the less famous and equally poignant ones. Gheorghiu sings the first aria from Edgar (''Addio, mio dolce amor'') with both gentleness and intensity and, as for her vocal performance, it's impossible to resist to her tearful rounded voice. The second aria from Edgar (''Nel villaggio d'Edgar'') is the most impressive of all arias in the album. First, because it's a big surprise that such an enchanting aria is so rarely recorded; second, because Gheorghiu shows the all the qualities that made her one of the leading sopranos of our times: her steady and dark-coloured middle, her floating pianissimi and her magnificent technique, which allows her to sing wonderful trills. Other extremely beautiful performances the arias from Manon Lescaut, Suor Angelica, Le Villi e Madama Butterfly.
After listening to every tracks lots of times, I could find only two minor drawbacks in Gheorghiu's singing. In the last two years, she has tended to sing the lower notes as if they were spoken, which can either convey more dramaticism or disturb the purity of the vocal line. Besides, I've noticed that her former sweet and crystalline high notes are turning into a more powerful and metallic sound... and also with more vibrato. Maybe that's just the case of a lyric soprano who's turning into a spinto, but I really think she should protect her precious high range.
Angela Gheorghiu, being the most complete singer actress of our days, has a complete idea of how to use the words and the melody to dramatic effect. Her dramaticism isn't screamy or exaggerated at all. Actually, it's subtle and naïve, but nevertheless powerful and impressive. Of course, in an album of excerpted arias she doesn't have the opportunity to give deep dramatic insights to each role. However, if her interpretations are always involved in a deep feminineness and innocence, she's able to express completely different personalities. After all, the icy Turandot, the tragic Cio-Cio-San, the naïve Mimì, all of them are, above all, passionate women. Her most complete characterizations are revealed in the despair of Manon Lescaut's aria (''Sola, perduta, abbandonata'') and in the Heavenly sadness of Angelica's ''Senza mamma''. Her lyric tragic temperament, as well as her dark lyric voice, suits the (apparently) fragile heroines (Mimì, Cio-Cio-San, Liù, Angelica, etc.) better than the fiery roles (Turandot and Minnie) or the sexy ones (Musetta). However, being a true artist, Gheorghiu's performances of both Turandot's and Minnie's arias are not only beautifully sung, but also dramatically effective, though one can easily notice she's not the ideal performer of those roles.
So, what can I say about the conducting? Well, here the conductor seemed as he was against, and not for, the singer. Conductor Anton Coppola preferred the slow tempos in almost every arias, and that sometimes can be disturbing. In the slow arias, like ''Addio, mio dolce amor'' or ''In quelle trine morbide'', everything's right. However, in the faster parts, which requires a lively conducting in order to deliver all the details of the melody, the conducting is so slow, and even monotone, that some wonderful melodies simply don't exist. Fortunately, most of times, Gheorghiu manages to use her voice and dramatic inflections, recovering the subtle details of Puccini's music.
In overall, I recommend this vocally amazing album not only for fans of Angela Gheorghiu, but also for everyone who loves the music of Puccini and wants to know Gheorghiu's artistry. No doubt it has some drawbacks, but there's so much wonderful singing and so many moving interpretations you will listen it only with your heart!
I do believe overall, everything on the CD is well sung and her voice remains consistent and secure, illustrating a very good technique. However, many of these arias require a spinto edge to the sound which has not totally developed in Gheorghiu. The most obvious being "In Questa Reggia" which really requires a trumpeting dramatic voice to really thrill the audience. In a hall, Gheorghiu's voice would not be adequate. The special moments are in full lyric arias she is known for. La Rondine shines, Mimi is of course her signature, and the Suor Angelica is hauntingly poignent and beautiful. Liu's arias are also well suited. One negative; Gheorghiu tends to suffer from a minor pitch deficiency sometimes, due to the way she colors her tone. However, the effects she achieves by doing this outweigh the human error. Callas was notorious for singing sharp, and now she's revered as the greatest Opera star ever. It made for exciting music. Perfection is dull and lacks emotion and artistry. I hear great potential in future endeavors with Butterfly and I'm sure Manon Lescaut will be one of her signature roles later in her career. These last two operas however require that same spinto edge which Gheorghiu needs to continue developing. I hope to witness these productions when they come to pass, but not just yet.
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