No prize for guessing who wore the best dresses. No prize, either, for picking the singer who came out on top and won our hearts. Gheorghiu’s soprano might be a fascinating mix of rich cream and steel, but through much of the night she kept her characters — Carmen, Rusalka, Bernstein’s Maria and others — at arm’s length.
Domingo, by contrast, plunged straight in, especially as the servant Gérard, throbbing with introspection in Andrea Chénier. From a smidgen of Die Walkürie to hum-along favourites, the veteran tenor radiated with the sheer joy of singing: baritone-range singing, often, although the virility of his voice at the age of 70 remains amazing.
A chillier aura emanated from Gheorghiu. She smacked of the diva doing her job: acting so much but no more; arms regularly soothing the masses with a lofty wave. Yet she herself eventually unbuttoned. Singing Romanian material (The Harvest, The Tree), she came up close and personal, communicating emotional truths with a conviction absent in her Tonight from West Side Story, one of five duets scattered through the night (the Act I finale to Verdi’s Otello was the best). And, whatever the night’s vocal pluses and minuses, the pair’s physical behaviour always entertained. Domingo exuded easy grace, particularly when kissing his rival’s hand. Gheorghiu was more tightly coiled, fussing over hairpins, mincing her lips, gesturing sometimes as if on a Heathrow runway bringing in a plane.
via The Times