Metropolitan Opera Gala, March 2002

An Operatic Duo Donates Time and Voice for a Benefit
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 26 March 2002

Four years ago the tenor Roberto Alagna and the soprano Angela Gheorghiu
got temporarily fired from the Metropolitan Opera for balking on singing
contracts to appear in the new Franco Zeffirelli production of Verdi's
"Traviata." Since then they have made amends and done valuable work. On
Sunday they further endeared themselves to the company by performing
arias and duets with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus in the
annual pension fund gala concert, conducted by Bertrand De Billy. They
even donated their services.

Most important, they sang very well. The enormous publicity campaigns
that their recording companies mounted for them early on did them no
good. Heard apart from the hype, they are now mature artists in their
late 30's with much to offer.

Unlike most gala concerts, this one began not with a spirited overture
but a poignant performance of the Prelude to Act III of "La Traviata,"
conducted by Mr. De Billy. Then Mr. Alagna and Ms. Gheorghiu gave an
elegant account of the final duet from that opera, "Parigi, o cara,"
providing a tantalizing hint of what might have been.

Mr. Alagna offered an interesting rarity: Edgardo's final scene from
Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" in an adapted French version prepared
by the composer for an 1839 Paris production. Over the years Mr.
Alagna's voice has taken on a richer, darker tone and more body. He sang
with lyrical ardor, yet stylistic refinement as well as impeccable
French diction.

Ms. Gheorghiu was her most beguiling in two Bellini arias: "Ah! non
credea mirarti" from "La Sonnambula" and "Casta Diva" from "Norma." Her
top notes were radiant; coloratura passages were blended gracefully into
Bellini's long-spun lyrical lines. The color in the middle of her voice,
depending on one's point of view, is either earthy and intriguing or
somewhat patchy. I mostly thought the former.

Mr. Alagna is essentially a ringing lyric tenor. He can enhance his
sound well enough for certain heavier Verdi roles, as he did ably in
"Quando le sere al plácido" from "Luisa Miller." He should be wary,
though, about taking on beefy verismo repertory. Though his performance
of "Un di all'azzurro spazio" from Giordano's "Andrea Chénier" was
wildly cheered, his singing sounded effortful, lacking the innate vocal
heft the aria requires. He was more effective in a portion of the love
duet from Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" with Ms. Gheorghiu. But opera
needs him more for works like Bizet's "Pearl Fishers." The duet from
this rarity was the highlight of the program.

This page was last updated on: July 26, 2002