Great Performances Interview
Michael Coveney, PBS, May 2002
Thirty-eight year old Roberto Alagna is probably the finest lyric
tenor of his generation and has performed leading roles in all the
world's important opera houses. Born in France of proud Sicilian
parentage, he is married to the equally renowned and distinguished
Romanian operatic soprano, Angela Gheorghiu.
At the Queen's concert in the gardens of Buckingham Palace on
Saturday, June 1, he will sing the glorious aria "E lucevan le
stelle" from Puccini's "Tosca," and will be joined by his wife in
the "brindisi," or toasting song, from the first act of Verdi's "La
Traviata." The couple spend much of their time in London and have
many friends in the city. They scored the latest of many triumphs on
stage together in Puccini's "La Rondine" at the Royal Opera House,
Covent Garden, just a few weeks before the start of the Golden
GP: What will it mean to you and your wife to perform in the
classical music concert during the Golden Jubilee Weekend?
RA: It will mean an incredible amount to Angela and me. We first met
each other in London, when we appeared together in "La Boheme" at the
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, ten years ago. And we love to be
together in the city. Also, the audiences in London have been very
loyal, and we feel we have been adopted by the public here. Of course
in Italy the audience is very exuberant, and they love opera, but
they can also be very fickle.
GP: This will be the first-ever concert in the gardens of Buckingham
Palace, with a huge audience and of course, an even larger one
throughout the world on television. Do you look forward to the
RA: Very much, absolutely. I love to sing in the big arenas of Verona
in Italy or Orange in France, and it should be an exciting
atmosphere. Of course, we will be singing with microphones, as there
is no acoustic[s] in the open air, but that can create a special
atmosphere, too. In the opera houses, we are singing for people who
know very well the opera, but here we can reach out to so many more
people, and I love to do that.
GP: Have you had any contact before with the British royal family?
RA: I have met several times Prince Charles, and I knew Princess
Diana a little when she was alive. I stood in once for Luciano
Pavarotti singing the Verdi "Requiem" and met them on that occasion.
Prince Charles, I know, has a very special feeling for music. It
means a lot to him, I think.
GP: And the Queen herself, do you have any impression of her?
RA: She is a person of very great class and style. She is not the
type to have a joke with, except maybe a little bit, but she
definitely has a sense of humor. For me, I like the way she is honest
in her reactions, and she takes an interest in the arts even if,
perhaps for her, they are not the first thing in her life. She
GP: Have you ever sung at any similar great public occasions?
RA: When I was very young I sang in Malta for their campaign of
independence. And recently, in France, I sang the "Marseillaise" in a
demonstration against Jean-Marie Le Pen, after the first round of the
presidential elections. I was very disturbed by the success of his
racist policies in the first ballot, and I banded together with many
other artists -- I was the leader, actually -- at a free concert in
front of the Eiffel Tower. I am relieved he was so well beaten by
Jacques Chirac in the second ballot. But the Queen's Jubilee will be
as big an occasion but far more relaxed. It is a celebration, not a
GP: How do you and Angela make your life together work on stage and
RA: It is very hard work, but we are determined to be together all
the time, if possible. We each have a secretary who handles our
timetables, and we try to be together whether we are singing or not.
We share our passion for our work in our passion for each other. It's
as simple as that.
GP: So you are looking forward to your day at the palace?
RA: Certainly, we were very honored when they called us. It is like a
consecration for us of our relationship with the British people. We
think of them as our friends, even the people we do not know
personally, and we get to make more friends through our music on this
This page was last updated on: July 3, 2002