London Records is touting this good-looking Romanian soprano as the Next Big Thing. She has had critical and popular success in her calling-card roles of Mimi and Violetta - the latter also was recorded for London – and she has already appeared at the Metropolitan, Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper, and other big opera houses. This disc is her solo debut.
Caution is the watchword of the day. Gheorghiu's voice is dark and characterful, rather like Sylvia Sass's, but without the Hungarian soprano's Callas-like mannerisms. In spite of her voice's dark color, Gheorghiu sounds most comfortable in the florid selections by Bellini and Donizetti. When she sings out, her sound blossoms and becomes truly attractive, and her trills and high notes are admirable. Unfortunately, she doesn't sing out much in this collection, and her singing often sounds hollow and tentative. She feels her way through "Sul fil d'un soffio etesio" from Falstaff and doesn't invest Mimi with the kind of vocal personality that makes us want to love and protect her. She also tends to go sharp. I didn't feel like I was hearing the real Angela Gheorghiu until the final selection, an ode to music, sung in her native tongue. She is not in the same class as her fellow Romanians Ileana Cotrubas and Virginia Zeani… not yet, anyway. I think that there's a real danger that Gheorghiu will take on roles that are too heavy for her. Hers is not the kind of voice that can withstand chronic misuse. Given some experience and more training, she could well develop into an outstanding lyric soprano.
Mauceri is a most sensitive conductor, but the orchestra has its truly shameful moments. The engineering is fine, and full texts and English translations are provided.
Copyright © 1998, Raymond Tuttle