O Angela

For a change, diva Gheorghiu fulfilled her promise: that of performing with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on Sunday night. My friend T, who trekked up north last weekend specifically for Angela's sake, files his report below. Merci to him, and to the diva herself who, for once, actually turned up after saying she would.


Angela Gheorghiu's highly-anticipated, rather belated Vancouver debut recital took place at the Orpheum, a palatial venue that, upon entering its cavernous facade, had me worrying like a stage mother. The first thought that creeped into my mind was this: Would Gheorghiu's precious decibels prove deficit against such a vast space? Followed by: Would it soar against full orchestra, project audibly across the hall, without damaging her voice in the process? For after all a singer's number one priority, more than anything, is to be heard loud and clear. I need not have worried, for this soprano soared magnificently into the rafters, the kind of glorious soaring that would render her detractors mute, those who quibble about the size of her voice when they can't find anything else to quibble about. Gheorghiu, on the evening of April 3, once again demonstrated her almost superhuman ability to capture an audience hook, line and sinker, turning the most maudlin of arias into luminous gems, showing off her celebrated soprano as the gods themselves who created it would want her to, singing a treasure trove of arias both genteel and dramatic in nature, earning her lavish praise from the audience who applauded wildly the moment she made her entrance. "Lascia ch'io pianga"—the soprano's favorite warm-up piece—was exactly that: a "safe," risk-free little aria, a balm to soothe her vocal chords as only the music of Handel could, a prelude to the bigger, more riskier numbers such as Rusalka's haunting "Song To The Moon," La Wally's tragic soliloquy "Ebben, ne andro lontana," and Margherita's powerful "L'altra note in fondo al mare"—all of which Gheorghiu delivered with thrilling passion and artistry that the audience, no doubt caught up in the rapture of a voice so bewitching and magical as to seem altogether real, willingly overlooked the constant tug-of-war the diva and conductor Bramwell Tovey were pointlessly playing on stage, and that Schubert's Ständchen did not at all become her—all these minor blemishes vanish the moment one hears the miraculous beauty of Gheorghiu's voice. It also doesn't hurt that the diva cuts a striking figure on stage, looking like a Hindu goddess in a black and white long-sleeved plaid organza ensemble with matching fringed shawl. Gheorghiu looked especially smashing in a flowing hussy-red dress that followed every contour and emphasized every erogenous zone of her hour-glass figure and which, naturally, turned heads whenever she moved which she did quite a bit. The encores—they weren't encores per se, at least spontaneously speaking, for they were obviously rehearsed—the encores were extravagantly sung and extravagantly rewarded with rapturous applause. I'm talking nearly half-a-dozen numbers here that ranged from the infectious "Granada" to the sentimental "All The Things You Are," the latter of which the soprano, accompanied on the piano by conductor Tovey, sang with all the joy and promise of an exuberant, flawless, picture-perfect spring day, the audience barely resisting the urge to sing along with Angela. It was a gorgeous end to a gorgeous recital. Later in the lobby, a few people, perhaps the same ones who found themselves mesmerized by the melody of Jerome Kern's most beloved song as to almost sing backup to Angela, were humming the exquisite melody, doing so without the slightest inhibition, as we all walked out into a cool, moonlit Vancouver night.