Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds
This is last night in Bucharest, where Ms Gheorghiu announced the new man in her life.
Very mean… This “masterpiece” is not exactly her standard repertoire; perhaps he should ask Katherine Jenkins to join him next time?
Yikes! Almost as painful as the French organist’s rendition of Jerusalem!
Solfegio-not passed! Poor, poor….
She’s a great artist, knowing how to gracefully get out of a difficult situation. She shouldn’t waste her time learning pop-opera repertoire, not even for personal friends like Andrea. Stick to real opera – that’s where your glory lies!
Horrible. Unbelievable that such a ‘diva’ can’t sing correctly at first sight, presuming she had never heard that one. I never liked her singing anyway, too wobbly. And those ‘diva’ infatuations and mannerisms…
How embarrassing! Makes Angela Gheorghiu look like a schoolgirl who didn’t do her homework.
Why do I prefer the crossover version of this piece, not the operatic one? Even with the score in front of her (that is a lazy copout anyway for singers) the pitches were wrong, and when right, were often flat.
My vote goes to Jackie Evancho instead and whomever she sings it with. (now cleaning out my ears)
Her pitch did not bother me, CJ, but it most clearly is not her repertoire.
The thing about Gheorghiu is that even with a bad performance, she has a fire and playfulness that serves her very well. I enjoyed the rendition much more than the one you mentioned because of that. In fact, I smiled all through this one – after that uncomfortable first minute.
Gorgious Georghiu, unruly and unrehearsed … taking a break from serious.
By far not Ms Gheorghiu’s best…
This being said, kudos to all performers out there stepping on a stage.
The intense scrutiny social medias and mobile devices has put on all human beings but particularly musicians has become overwhelming. In this day and age the simple act of getting on a stage should be looked upon rather differently…it is more an act of courage than musicianship.
Decades ago you would find the occasional “pirated” version of a performance, nowadays virtually EVERY performance is pirated and put on the web, without permissions of any parties involved.
Sad thing: a bad performances will garner so much more attention and comments than a good one!
There’s a BIG difference between the occasional slip up due to illness, jetlag or simply having a bad voice day and being blatantly unprepared. The latter shows contempt for the public that shells out good money for the artist’s high fees, not courage.
Oratorio is about the only acceptable instance in which a score can be put in front of a singer and in fact is not permitted in any other genres in most conservatory examinations starting from the ABRSM.
It’s becoming as though any slapped up music can be served to the public but some of us are not so stupid and accepting.
Goodbye indeed…and good riddance to this circus duo!
Oh come ON, it’s only the beginning that’s dodgy! She sings Bocelli off the stage – the notion that he could ‘teach’ her anything is utterly absurd.
A quick search on youtube reveals multiple examples of her singing live and utterly beautifully:
Who cares if she can sightsing or not? Yawn…
Agree. Georghiu has a fantastic voice but doesn’t know the music, hasn’t done her homework. Boccelli knows the music but – to my ears – has no voice and doesn’t know how to sing.
It’s that conductor I felt sorry for — he couldn’t know whose tempo to work to, Bocelli’s or hers.
Doesn’t matter who is deemed the “greater” artist. She accepted this gig, whether she was a friend of Bocelli’s or in order to widen her reputation among his massive audience, and she turned up unprepared. Inexcusable. Maybe characteristic, too — perhaps not being prepared was why she has cancelled so many appearances over the years.
That said, and given her situation, I thought both of them handled it with grace. And pity help the conductor.
For those of you trying to judge her calibre as a credible operatic artist based on her ability to sight sing,you are hugely removed from reality. Sight singing is a skill really only needed by choral scholars. Operatic singers will learn their music in front of a piano and spend many many hours perfecting the music. Although sight singing is usefully it is by no means the be all and end all. Many of the really great singers of today and before can not sight sing at all. It is completely different to being an instrumentalist, where the skill to sight read is imperative. The difference also lies in the fact that it is very easy to find a note on an instrument and play that note, but to do such a thing as a singer without accompaniment would entail having perfect pitch,something which only a very minute percentage of the population have. She is clearly under rehearsed, but we have all been put in these positions, and people should stop being so judgemental, unless of course they are perfect at singing yourselves!!!
while poor Angela struggled for a moment remembering the most idiotic rambling verse invented by popera( every student that slaves to learn it knows that) Once she gets going she gives it heaps- preferable to the under the note lazy singing from Bocelli- a mashup of bad pop and bad opera.
She does get going. Simply off at the beginning. Nice version overall, after the first minute.
FYI the tickets for the above concert were from about $45 standing room to the highest VIP, about $417, in a not very wealthy country.
With regard to the new flame whose voice was so substandard compared to the other developed singers (that is if he really is a countertenor) who didn’t belong at all on a stage with them, it’s a wonder what is being thrown at the public these days.
I really don’t understand why you think she sang this so badly. She only fluffed the beginning! I performed with her at the RFH recently, where she used her music for reference throughout – it’s not necessarily a sign of being under-prepared. She sang stunningly, incidentally.
I once saw Kennedy playing the Brahms in the Bridgewater Hall, and beautifully too. He re-started after a couple of minutes, saying “Sorry, that was BOLLOCKS – can I start again?”. I’d rather hear imperfect performances with passion than a bland delivery of notes with no emotional depth.
Can an artist not make the odd mistake here and there? We are humans not robots, after all.
The reference video is gone unfortunately, but there was no balance between the voices either. It was as though she were forcing the lower notes and some of them were flat because of that.
There is a golden rule to make performances as much as possible idiot proof.
The duet with the countertenor Romanian gave the impression of being a slap up as well. There was no coordination or balance there either and she did go flat as well.
CJ, I have to say her graciously calm control in her high range more than makes up for any low range weakness assuming it exists at all….just observe how she reaches her highs with no facial distortion– a study in grace absolutely.
First of all, there was no high range in this duet, at least not for a high operatic soprano.
I don’t have any problem at all with Bocelli. This sort of music, crossover or whatever you want to call it, is closer to speech particularly in the middle and low registers and should be approached that way. Why the heck anyone would try to make a Callas chesty tone in the leadup to the song (recitativo in any other context) is really beyond sense. That’s where she started to go wrong. The timbre was not well chosen and she had to keep up a semblance of operatic singing, even though in the end it turned out to be a caricature with no correlation to what he was doing. His approach was well considered and appropriate to the piece. Any operatic singer doing West Side Story should take note.
I’ll take full blame tor the misunderstanding…. did not mean to refer to THIS performance but majestic accomplishments like her Vissi d’arte and duets with husband Robert … the current foray into non-repertoire should be regarded for what it is– a good-natured lark well-intended for the sake of fun and charity, not to be critiqued with operatic standards.
Other well-known soprano experiments with jazz have been accepted– why not give Angela a break?
And you missed my point, this rep is not opera, so shouldn’t be sung with such an approach.
In general you confuse what are commonly accepted as good standards for singing performance with opera whatever that means to you. In fact, they are not mutually exclusive except operatic voices are trained to soar over an orchestra without microphones.
At the least, for any kind of singing one should come prepared knowing the words and the music. If people are paying tickets from $45 to 10x that amount, it is only respect for them not to have the chorus start again and the conductor wondering what the tempo is, that’s all.
Well, before jumping to conclusions let’s remember three facts made public today by Angela herself:
1. Bocelli arrived in Bucharest in the day of the concert. Angela did not have any chance to rehearse any of the several duets with him.
2. “Time to say goodbye” appeared not in the main program, but as an encore.
3. Angela showed up for free, as a friend of Bocelli and he’s been rather exploitative, asking her to sing quite a few tunes for free.
4. Everybody seems to notice the hesitation at the beginning, but do people notice that Bocelli’s voice itself is in a rather pathetic shape? Not exactly rich and creamy and glorious…
Nice rationalizations but encores are routinely prepared as well, or should be.
Con Te is not a hard piece, can be studied on the plane or in a hotel room. ‘Not having any time to rehearse duets’ sounds like the ‘dog ate my homework’ typical kid excuse.
Why would Gheorghiu work for free? I don’t understand. For him or for her benefit?
After all this bruhaha, I venture to sum it up: it was a well-known pop song, folks, not Brunnhilde’s monologue. besides, the words and notes were written in front of her.
I know people with no musical training but possessing just intonation who could deliver that song at least correctly.
Another inspiring invitation to the joy of contradiction… or you could be writing a book on how to make friends within the opera community and bring them to a new level of endearment.
If I may paraphrase you with a minimum of verbal pretzelization: Crank up the volume and a new opera star emerges before an enraptured audience..,.. you did say– inviting such an interpretation– that opera performers are judged by the same standards as other singers but need sufficient volume to be heard above the orchestra without electronic assist.
Regardless of that bit of outrageosity, just what would you have Angela use for a style– suppose she adopts an Eartha Kitt approach– would that please you?
@richardcarlisle Here we go again! What “opera community” are you talking about? There isn’t any!
Opera is not the same as caricature of the same. Cheap emoting, stock gestures, glam in place of really getting into the music and text, changing an outfit for every aria, “Three (or more) Tenors”, meaningless high notes and coloratura just to impress, and much more, these are what the (uneducated) wants or expects from opera.
Fortunately, there are real singers still around with integrity and skill. Mariella Devia comes to mind.
Angela does remind me of tenors who force their voices to sound more “operatic”. This is superficial and I do cite her Vissi d’Arte as evidence, totally unbelievable as per any real sentiment.
And I thought the radical in our midst was me… sure, let’s trash opera and limit performances to the concert stage?
OK, back up… you list flaw after flaw — or downside — of opera as if opera is so deficient it shouldn’t exist– a study in pomposity hardly deserving a place in history books, certainly no active role in modern culture.
But then should we not negatize every entity in our surroundings— politics for example … I would eliminate or revamp political systems long before eliminating opera, and how about our mother earth with its capricious tornadoes and hurricanes, earthquakes– are you studying other planets possibly lacking such faults?
May I attempt to remind you negatives are the priceless counterpoint emphasizing all positives…all the elaborate aspects of opera make getting it produced in the first place a logistic wonder… think of how many high schools take on Broadway musical productions but don’t even contemplate opera — the ultimate staged spectacle– flawed undeniably but try letting the flaws emphasize the beautiful to be found on the opera stage rather than reason to condemn– surely your talent for negatizing could be redirected toward positive.thinking.
@richardcarlisle Most of the time, it is difficult to impossible to figure out what you are talking about: “pretzelization, Eartha Kitt, tornadoes, earthquakes”, etc. I’ll try to disentangle your arguments but it needs an attempt by you to try to understand that artistic truth is possible in opera and that caricatures of it are just that (already stated by me above which does not qualify at all for your accusation of ‘negativity”).
Rigoletto with Pavarotti and Gruberova is one example out of many. Callas did not sing one unconsidered note in her entire career. “Caro Nome” from that opera, usually a soprano warhorse, done by the two of them trepidation and intensity. Similarly “Vissi d’Arte” interpreted by Magda Olivero shows Tosca in a state of shock, rather not “Look at me, I’m a Diva (or Divo) singing an aria”.
It even shows disrespect for serious composers such as Verdi to turn his arias into vehicles to show off technique or worse, for self-promotion. “Sempre Libera” done by Callas is uncanny, how she penetrates the volatile contrary emotions of Violetta. But as long as the public accepts mock up arias done by 12 year olds without a clue as to music or words, but with stock gestures and facial expressions, trained singers can also jump on the money-making bandwagon.
Unconventional words designed to fit an energy mass bursting with uniquity ranging in temperament from cantankerous to joyous– how am I supposed to make do with ordinary words for extraordinary conditions may I ask.
But I’m still trying to recover from your write-off of all substance and material content in opera today as well as stating there is not even an opera community…and you go on living in the past ignoring contributions from those in the present.
If you enjoy Saturday at the opera broadcasts you should be familiar with Margaret Chuntwaite, Ann Ziff, Peter Gelb– important members of American opera society… even i can claim my own small share having shared Rutgers with Bill Ziff in the early fifties then later in the eighties working editing his software publication.
Its just as fulfilling embracing the present, exploring everthing out there (realizing the best are not always at their best) as it is clinging to the greats of history… today’s standout performers are tomorrow’s greats of history.
If you’re seriously disappointed in Angela Gheorghiu there are several others to observe and enjoy .. it’s so much healthier to love than reject.
@richardcarlisle You obviously don’t read what I write or your prejudice is so strong as to blind you to what I actually say. This wild assertion of yours is completely untrue:
“But I’m still trying to recover from your write-off of all substance and material content in opera today as well as stating there is not even an opera community…and you go on living in the past ignoring contributions from those in the present.”
The “opera community” that you speculate about had to do with an imagined bulwark against 13 year olds penetrating it and showing the alleged members of the club that one doesn’t need training or technique, only feeling and charisma.
Since exactly WHEN was JE ever brought into this thread– the discussion started with your bashing Angela Gheorghiu leading to my support of her then you proceeded to blast everything going on in modern opera resulting in my defense of the establishment.
YOU need to review the comments to become aware of what’s on the table here
@richardcarlisle When a person such as yourself becomes emotionally involved in your likes or dislikes, rational criticism becomes “bashing”. With that comes an irrational need to “defend the establishment (?)” that includes allegations of “blasting everything going on in modern opera”.
You can have a childish tantrum all you want when someone doesn’t agree with you but you are NOT going to put words into my mouth. This is exactly what I wrote, “Fortunately, there are real singers still around with integrity and skill. Mariella Devia comes to mind.”
I am not going to descend into the level of mudwrestling with you.
As for present singers, here is a remarkable winner of a recent competition who sings a modern aria. I doubt that Angela can survive one quarter of the way into the aria or the next one. Hye Jung Lee performs “I am the Wife of Mao Zedong” from Nixon in China by John Adams.
Lee as Zerbinetta in “Grossmächtige Prinzessin” from Ariadne auf Naxos:
Author, novelist, broadcaster, cultural commentator.
Follow him on FB: Facebook and on Twitter @NLebrecht
More Lebrecht @ normanlebrecht.com
Enter your email address:
December 5, 2013 13 Comments
December 5, 2013 5 Comments
December 5, 2013 3 Comments
December 5, 2013 6 Comments
December 4, 2013 1 Comment
December 4, 2013 9 Comments
December 4, 2013 2 Comments
December 4, 2013 6 Comments
December 4, 2013 4 Comments
December 4, 2013 36 Comments
an ArtsJournal blog