Review, Angela Gheorghiu Operatic Gala, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, London by James Ellis

Photo credit: LPO

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The LPO gave a fairly resplendent rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1st Symphony. Dubbed the ‘Winter Daydreams’, the promise of an exceptional career in music is here. It’s easy to say it’s lovely, yet I found most of the work remained attractive. Not as bold as later work, the nickname easily evokes the imagery fitting for this festive concert. Maestro Gergely Madaras had shape and form, the heftier moments never feeling like a chore. Musically it remains rooted in it’s era of late romance. Typical, if still mostly charming.

In what was orignall billed as a night with Reneé Fleming, she had to bow out. We were given the absolute diva from Romania, Angela Gheorghiu, one of the opera world’s biggest stars. Finally a chance to hear her live! Things started off very ropey with Caro mio ben by Giordani, this being a Italian heavy set. She sang a select few arias, half of the second half must go to the players and Madaras for their wonderful Prokofiev Troika, Polonaise from Eugene Onegin and Polovtsian Dances. Though there were some major issues with her voice, her classic Puccini arias (Madama Butterfly and La bohème) had style, if a little rough around the edges.

Perhaps the most lovely was her take on L’altra notte in fondo al mare from Mefistofele. Boito’s superb aria was the middle of the choices and I think had the most resonance. She seemed to rise above previous issues in the set and excel here. Gheorghiu’s may be past her prime and I truly hate having to say that, yet what I did love was her big presence. Her laughter and lavish costumes wont be forgotten. It was quite camp really. I expected Ru Paul in the front row.

A highly memorable encounter, perhaps not for all the right reasons. 

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