Angela Gheorghiu: I want to be original in every role

When I am on stage, I give my heart and soul. There are no half measures

Soprano Angela Gheorghiu will stage its first concert in Bulgaria on 25 February. In her 30-year-long career she had shared the stage with many Bulgarian singers including Ghena Dimitrova, Orlin Anastassov, Vesselina Kasarova, etc. Gheorghiu has performed some of the most famous female opera characters such as Mimi, Tosca, Magda, Manon or Madame Butterfly.

Mrs Gheorghiu, though you were born in Romania, this will be your first concert in Bulgaria. Do you know something about our country?

Although we are neighbouring countries, this is indeed my very first concert in Bulgaria and I am looking forward to it. I have visited Bulgaria only once, when I went to see Balchik, where Queen Mary of Romania had her castle and gardens, her get-away place where she could enjoy the sea and her flowers. I think Bulgarians are very similar to Romanians and we share many common views and beliefs, and when it comes to art and music there are many talented people, just like in Romania.

Please, share with our readers details about your concert programme? What shall we expect to hear?

There are beautiful arias, as well as duets which I choose to work well with our tenor, Stephen Costello, who is very talented and with whom I have sung before, last time in La Boheme. I do not want to give away too much, people need to be a little curious as well. There will be Puccini, Bizet, Donizetti, etc.

Have you ever been on stage with Bulgarian artists?

Of course I have. In my almost 30-year-long career, I have shared the stage with my Bulgarian colleagues as well. I remember with great pleasure singing Liu in Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera with Ghena Dimitrova, a wonderful artist who left us too soon. With my dear colleague and friend Vesselina Kasarova I have sung together in Falstaff, at the Vienna State Opera. And with the bass Orlin Anastassov I have sung Marguerite in Faust, opposite his Mephisto, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and in Monte Carlo in the fantastic and big Forum Hall.

You are one of the best Puccini sopranos of all times. Which of his heroines is your favourite and closest to your heart?

I love all the Puccini roles, they are strong characters, with very strong emotions. I could say Tosca just because she is an opera singer, and so am I. But this is the only similarity with her character, I have to build her personality in other aspects. Of course, I leave a little mark of my personality, my temperament, in every role that I am singing. I always want to be original. Every time, my favourite role, the closest to my heart, is the one I am singing at the specific moment. Mimi, Tosca, Magda, Manon or Madame Butterfly are beautiful music scores and strong women, each in their own way, and I am glad I have sung them all, on stage or on recordings, or both.

What are your memories about your debut as Tosca? Did you have any fears or doubts, and how did you feel after the premier?

My memories with Tosca go back to the 2001 movie directed by Benoit Jacquot, with which I have participated in film festivals around the world. It is the last opera film created for cinema. I consider myself privileged and lucky because I lived in those times - very creative and with true lovers of opera and honest admirers for my art. Then, in 2005, at the season opening of the Met they did a gala where I sang the 2nd act of Tosca.

How do you prepare for a new role? I suppose every character needs a different approach. Can you remember which role was the biggest challenge in your career till now?

Every role is a new challenge, but I love these challenges. I will not tell you in this interview all my secrets or “weapons”, but with every role that I prepare for, I take a lot of time, to study the music, to perfectly know the story and the character. And I always give a lot of attention to the words, it is very important! Nowadays, there are so many singers performing, but they do not even know what they are saying, I could never do that, I know perfectly every word, every note, and I respect it. This is the reason why I did not approach German roles, and I mainly sing Italian and French roles, as I understand these languages perfectly.

Do you have any role you dream of and which you have not performed?

I am waiting to make my stage debut in Manon Lescaut, hopefully 'a la carte', meaning with a great cast, conductor and orchestra, and in a beautiful production. I love this role.

The audience loves you, the cameras as well. You played the main part in the movie Tosca by director Benoit Jacquot, and you acted and sang in Romeo and Juliet together with your ex-husband. How did you feel as an actress, how did cinema attract you? Do you have plans to continue with you acting career?

The films are very special, opera movies are very rare and basically non-existing today, so I am very happy I could do these two films. It is very demanding but also very satisfying when you see the result. I wish I will continue to appear in movies at some point in my life, but as opera films are not produced anymore, then why not in a normal blockbuster movie?

You have sung in front of many politicians and royals. Did you meet some of them personally, and did they share their emotions with you after the concerts?

Of course I did, I always meet them after the performance. It has never happened to me that a political, artistic, sports, or another type of personality would not come and congratulate me after a performance, and for this gesture I am always honoured. There are so many stories. I remember the graciousness of Lady Di when she first came to meet me after one performance of La Boheme, in 1992. Not only royals or politicians are among my admirers, but actors as well. This is how I met Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Irons or Judi Dench, and I remain friends with them to this day.

What music styles do you prefer, excluding classical music?

I love music and when I am at home, or on vacation, I rarely listen to classical music, as I want to listen to something else than what I normally do. So I listen to jazz music, among others. I love jazz and jazz singers - Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, etc. I like Sting, Elton John, Michael Buble, Bruno Mars, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, and of course now I like so much Lady Gaga as well.

Do you need to burn in your life so that you can burn in your career?

When you burn on stage, you have to take time to recover at home, to rest, to relax, to have your time and recharge your batteries. In another aspect, life with its ups and downs has an influence on you, on what you are doing, it cannot be otherwise. But when I am on stage, I give my everything, my heart and soul, always. There are no half measures. I am and will always be an honest artist, and I think that only through honesty, through sincerity in our art, we can reach people's souls, we can offer them true emotions.

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