The autobiography of outspoken soprano Angela Gheorghiu — Angela Gheorghiu: A Life for Art — comes out in October. Her candidness will obviously make for fascinating reading. In an interview with the Corriere della sera she was as unbuttoned as ever.
If I am the black sheep of my profession because I have my own opinions and I react to unkindness.
The Romanian soprano has a slightly unkind nickname: Draculina.
I laugh about it, I mean Dracula is just a legend, an invented character, among other things invented by an Irishman, not a Romanian. Why does no one say that I have helped so many colleagues and conductors?
But even Draculina has a Mum and Dad:
My mother was a seamstress, and my father was a train driver. They loved opera and so I used to imitate everything I heard, I was like a sponge. My voice came from nowhere — I was born in a tiny town in Romania called Adjud.
Population of 18,000 in the Moldavia region. She was born in 1965, the year Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power.
When you are a child you do not understand… you play… they even gave us all free singing lessons. But it was a horrible country. When I was 14, I went to study in Bucharest, and luckily Ceausescu was overthrown the year before I finished the conservatory, in 1989, so that meant I could begin to travel. It hasn’t changed much in my country.
Corruption is not only in politics but in the DNA of Romanians. Kickbacks to the doctors to cure you, or to the priest to do a baptism. There’s a parallel world. They don’t build motorways, schools, hospitals or theatres. The country is divided into two, between old and young — thank goodness for the young generation. I have sung operas all over the world, but never in Romania… does that seem normal?
Those in power think that Romanian singers have to perform for free or almost. When, in 1994, I managed to take Placido Domingo over, he was paid, I wasn’t. Those who have success are not appreciated.
The mayor of Bucharest wanted to give me the freedom of the city, but just for her own benefit; she is a woman who instrumentalizes everything, profiting from the success of others — so I refused. She did the same thing with my friend Simona Halep, the tennis champion, who, in spite of it being a ceremony at the stadium, was immersed in boos directed at the mayor.
Gheorghiu doesn’t identify with the women she portrays on stage.
They are almost all fragile women, victims. They would need to compose a new work based on me. For example, I’ve been with a Romanian boy, 20 years my junior, for five years now, and his parents are my friends. His name is Mihai Ciortea, and he stopped being a dentist to stay close to me. Prejudices? Well, everyone should be able to live as they please — look at Macron in France.
And she’s disenchanted by modern day stardom.
It’s changed for the worse. The mystery is gone. Opera is selling out to physical beauty. You can have a so-so physique and yet be beautiful on stage. Between a good-looking singer with a mediocre voice and Pavarotti, today they would choose the mediocre talent.
The Italian version of Gheorghiu’s Wikipedia page has a section entitled “Character profile”:
I know everyone thinks I’m capricious, it’s the cross I’ve had to bear all my life. Artists are passionate.
Once, we were on tour in Japan with Zeffirelli’s Carmen, I was Micaela and they wanted to make me wear a horrible red wig! And yes, it’s true that in Vienna I didn’t come on stage after the first act of Tosca because Jonas Kaufmann sang an encore of E lucevan le stelle. I had begged him not to do it. Yes, take all your applause, but don’t sing an encore, it isn’t done. I was angry with him.
Before his well-deserved success, I supported him in his important debuts. After a Butterfly we talked about making a CD and doing a concert of Aida in Rome with Antonio Pappano and Orchestra of Santa Cecilia.
I was left out of the project and I don’t know why.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.