The soprano delivered on the
glamour big-time, with three gowns, glittering jewelry, and a happy, even flirty manner. She sang
beautifully too, if without the total captivation of her physical presence.
French music comprised the first half of the evening, with Eugene Kohn leading the orchestra in
a bumptious “Rakoczy March” from Berlioz’s Damnation de Faust. The musicians seemed to
need more warming up than the vocalist; the horns in particular struggled, possibly due to their
recent exertions with the LAO’s run of Tannhäuser.
Gheorghiu swept on in flaming red, and the ovation that greeted her spoke to the impression she
made with local audiences in her previous appearances with the company, as Nedda and Mimi.
She launched into the so-called “Jewel song” from Faust, a number that spotlights her easy,
bright top. Next was the program’s one rarity, “Pleurez, pleurez, mes Yeux,” from Massenet’s
El Cid. Though not the composer’s most memorable tune, the piece has enough dramatic
crescendos and darker passages to contrast well with the Gounod aria. After a gown change and
the orchestra’s tepid run-through of the Béatrice et Bénédict overture, Ms. Gheorghiu reappeared
and sang a tender “Adieu, notre petite table.” The first half ended with Ms. Gheoghiu’s
somewhat controversial essay into Carmen, but for a recital, her “Habañera” succeeded
wonderfully. She took a light-hearted approach, playful more than siren-ish, and the aria’s range
seemed to suit her well.
The second half went to Italian composers, with Kohn choosing the Mascagni overture to Le
Maschere, an unsubtle but fun piece. Gheorghiu’s Puccini Manon had a real poignance in “In
quelle trine morbide.” Then she offered one of her specialities, “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta,”
another opportunity to display her lovely top notes. She left for another gown change, and Kohn
led the orchestra, finally sounding like the excellent group that has played for James Conlon
recently, in Verdi’s overture to Les Vêpres Siciliennes. Now clad in glamorous black, with a sort
of spider web motif, Gheorghiu sang Forza’s “Pace, pace, mio dio” and closed the second half
with “Un bel di.”
These last two pointed up the relatively soft volume of Gheorghiu’s middle voice. She can be
heard, even in a larger hall such as the Chandler, but it is not until the vocal line takes her higher
that the voice has real force. Nevertheless, this listener would not trade the warm textures of her
middle voice for a pushed sound.
So a rapturous audience called Ms. Gheorghiu back for several encores. Ironically, it was in the
Lerner-Loewe “I Could have Danced All Night” that Ms Gheorghiu’s softer approach teased the
ears a bit too much, but her irresistible delight in performing the song could not be denied. She
treated the crowd as well to a Romanian song, to “Granada” and Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro,”
and finally to “Non ti scordar di me.” She then grasped the first violinist by the hand, and led the
musicians off the stage.
A delightful evening, but one that might have left some listeners eager for some heavier fare.
Perhaps on her next visit, Ms. Gheorghiu will offer a program of more challenge. And one gown
will do fine.