My friend T., who worships cara Angela unconditionally and who could do no wrong in his calculation, files his report below of the unsinkable diva's D.C. recital début. If unabashed superlatives make you cringe, I urge you to stop reading now. Otherwise, read on!
Angela Gheorghiu, goddess among us mere mortals, gave a stunning recital Saturday night at Washington National Opera, her first at the house, to a spellbound audience voraciously hungry for heavy dollops of old-school diva glamour. Ms. Gheorghiu, not one to disappoint, certainly offered a banquet in terms of style, and how! Appearing regal in a ravishing iridescent taffeta gown draped at the waist à la Dior in a beguiling shade of apricot tinged with pale gold rather like the colors of Venice at twilight, Ms. Gheorghiu showed who's boss and commenced with her signature Handel opener, "Ombra mai fu," at a slightly brisk pace that she felt suited her best but of which the conductor, veteran Eugene Kohn, felt otherwise. No matter, the soprano refused to let a minor flaw, in this case something as insignificant as tempo, blemish her performance. Ms. Gheorghiu has more talent than she knows what to do with, and so proceeding confidently into Mozart's lovely "Giunse al fin momento...," she went from strength to strength that once again showcased her prodigious gifts. One of those gifts is her ability to spin long arching lines that never seem to end, as evinced in her ethereal reading of Massenet's "Vive amour," which was preceded by yet another glorious example of this innate gift in a knock-'em-dead rendition of Dvorak's classic weepie, "Song to the Moon," which concluded the first act. (In between these quartet of arias, the orchestra provided fillers in the form of overtures.) The overture from "Le Corsaire" was a most wonderful entr'acte played with Gallic style by the band, as if Berlioz's triumphant score were written specifically to herald the soprano's entrée deuxième. It very well may have been, for the soprano looked like a vision straight out of Singer Sargent: black sequins seem to have been invented with Ms. Gheorghiu in mind. Perhaps sensing that she had the audience at the palm of her hand and on her side, and not the conductor's, she gave an arrestingly beautiful "Adieu notre petite table," as well as a supremely confident "Pleurez mes yeux". Spontini's rarely-performed "O nume tutelar" and La Wally's often-performed tragic soliloquy ended the program proper with aplomb. Encores galore flowed like champagne, from the frothy "I Could Have Danced All Night" to the showstopper "Granada," all the way to the sentimental "All The Things You Are," which sparkled like the diva's sequined gold gown (her third of the evening, mind), and of which the audience awarded with plenty of love. A glittery night was had by all, no more so than the diva herself, at the not-so-glittery Washington National Opera.