The Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu needs no introduction to the public: the entire world knows her. And what’s more, for the first time, the world-acclaimed soprano presents herself in an unique way: an autobiography which covers Gheorghiu’s life and career from her childhood in Communist Romania to her spectacular Covent Garden debut in 1992 and up to the present day. We went to London for the launching of “A life for Art”, currently available on Amazon, read the book and underlined some more Angela’s magic.
By Oana Vasiliu
The book is called “A life for Art”. What is art in your own definition?
Art has so many meanings, so many definitions, it has a vast variety of expressions that bring different feelings, different emotions to different people. But if you ask me about the book title, this comes, of course, from Vissi d’arte, Tosca’s aria that Puccini wrote in fact for another Romanian soprano, Hariclea Darclée – the first ever soprano to sing Tosca – and it means “I live for Art”… this aria is like an hymn to me, as my destiny was to be an opera singer, because I truly live for Art!
While reading the book, you often mention that you were a very shy person, although while singing in front of an audience, regardless the space or the number of attendees, you felt very comfortable, especially when you could see the audience’s emotions and reactions – people in tears, smiling, blushing. How did you cope, over the years, with the two Angelas? And which one was more often in front of the journalist who conducted the interviews for this book?
I took my time before committing to this first auto-biography, but once I made the decision, I poured my heart and soul in the interviews. As my life is intertwined with my art, in the book you get to see both sides of Angela. The very passionate professional, who immerses herself in each new role, wanting to give as many details and texture to each opera character to enhance the intense emotion carried by the music and the word.. and Angela the human being, the one always on the road, with her ups and downs and her very complex temperament.
You often pay tribute to the professors who lead your way as a teenager. Have you ever considered an academic career?
I have taught two master classes in the past, both at the Georg Solti Accademia. It was an invitation made by the family of a great friend, so I accepted without hesitation. However, this was a short term experience. Personally, I believe in mentorship more than in short term encounters such as the summer master classes. Such long term academic programs would be more suitable for me, but I am not there yet. My career continues to be very busy, I have commitments all around the world, concerts and opera performances, new recordings to make and I love singing more than anything else. The academic career would have to still wait for a while.
The Romanian cultural scene you picture in the book both in the Communist period and nowadays underlines some painful realities. You said it before in mass media and now through this book to a broader audience. Do you think that it is a matter of time before the cultural scene will start to pay tribute as it should to our international artists or it’s worthless to even predict such thing?
I would love to be more optimistic about this, but the truth is, it’s hard to be under the given circumstances. I have waited for over a quarter of a century to make my debut on a Romanian opera stage in a world class performance and I never could. In order to do so, I would need an orchestra, a good production, suitable Romanian stage partners. But the really good ones, they all are, just like me, singing everywhere else in the world. This exodus that is very evident, is not limited to opera singers and classical music soloists, it is threatening now to leave the country fall into mediocracy, lose its values, its moral compass, its best, most talented people and something must be done quickly to prevent this tragedy.
I was very surprised to find out the you work by yourself the practice for a representation and the fact that you are always following your instincts. Is there a ritual you have for a new opera role you study? Speaking of which, what’s your relationship with silence?
Good question! Yes, since I was 18 I have had my own compass of a complete score, of any role I have sung, and of everything that is in relation with the role. I study by myself, taking in not only the music, but also the words, because us opera singers are not just singing, but also acting at the same time. It is a very complex path to give birth to a new role in each of its aspects, but I love this! My ritual, if you want, is to always follow my own instinct and nothing else, and I have never failed when we talk about my career, never! But of course this is not an advice I would give to other singers, as everybody has their own habits I guess.
Silence is a relationship I embrace often, as I never speak the day or even days before a performance or a recording, before singing. I only have my inner voice then, and this tells me to be silent in order to always be the best!
The classical music was, is and will remain a genre that attracts a certain type of audience. You were on TV, singing classical music since the beginning of your career, over the years drawing more and more audiences to it, via international broadcasts. But the younger generation is glued to social media through their phones and its attention span, statistically speaking, does not last longer than 6 seconds. All these considered, how can classical music keep up with the new technologies? How are you dealing with the social media channels?
I use social media daily, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, this is the way nowadays and we do have to adapt in a way. Even in the world of opera we do have short clips, videos of famous arias that we share with the public, or curtain calls which can capture the joy and electricity of a great performance, official photos or fan photos, a multitude of memorabilia that are now part of an artist’s digital signature. Or interviews, like the ones I am doing now, it will surely be on my social websites as well. At the same time, I can say that this social media over-exposure nowadays is not really that good as it has the risk of diminishing the mystery that is created around an artist. Too little and maybe you won’t be that noticed, too much and you risk that everything will become very superficial, too accessible to everyone – there has to be a certain dosage of the social media exposure.
In the preface of the book, you underlined that this “is not a story of my life, but rather a story of my life”, which will be continued. So what’s next for Angela Gheorghiu in her life for Art?
There is a lot going on, and thinking of the question before this one, everybody is free to find out from the internet “where, when, with whom” I perform. Of course, some projects are still confidential, and some others did not even appear until now, so I am waiting to be surprised myself… It is a constant and gratifying journey with the music, all over the world, and every performance, every concert, every recording is different and new from the other, never the same. And this makes me continue my life for Art.