Gheorghiu as Floria Tosca at San Francisco Opera, November 2012
7 September 1965
|Education||National University of Music Bucharest|
|Occupation||Opera singer (soprano)|
|Spouse(s)||Andrei Gheorghiu (div. 1994)|
(m. 1996; div. 2013)
Since her professional debut in 1990, she has performed in leading roles of several operas at New York's Metropolitan Opera, London's Royal Opera House, the Vienna State Opera, Milan's La Scala, and many other opera houses in Europe and the United States. She has a substantial discography primarily with EMI Classics and Decca and is especially known for her performances in the operas of Puccini.
Early life and family
Angela Burlacu was born in Adjud, Romania, to a seamstress mother and train driver father. Along with her sister Elena, she sang opera music from an early age. At age 14, she began to study singing at the National University of Music Bucharest, primarily under Mia Barbu. Her graduation in 1990 followed the overthrow of Nicolae Ceaușescu the previous year, enabling her to seek an international career immediately. Her graduation exam took place at the Cluj-Napoca Romanian National Opera as Mimì in La bohème in 1990, the same year she won third prize in the Belvedere International Singing Competition.
In 1996, Elena died in a car crash. Her parents then separated and her father became a monk, living in a monastery in Mount Athos. Four years later, after Elena's surgeon husband, Andrei Dan, died, she adopted their daughter, Ioana, who studied in the University of Kent and has lived in London since. She decided not to have a child of her own in fear of the probable voice change after pregnancy and that raising Ioana was already a satisfying experience for her.
1990s & 2000s
In 1992, Gheorghiu made her international debut at the Royal Opera House as Mimì in La bohème,[a] and at the Vienna State Opera as Adina in L'elisir d'amore. In 1993, she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Mimì. In 1994, she debuted as Violetta in a new production of La traviata conducted by Georg Solti at the Royal Opera House. The sensation prompted BBC Two to clear its regular schedule on 8 December to broadcast the live performance, which led her to international stardom. She appeared at the Met again in 1998 for six performances of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette with her husband, tenor Roberto Alagna as Roméo. She also sang at the Richard Tucker Opera Gala in 1999.
Gheorghiu and Alagna returned to the Metropolitan Opera for five performances of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore in 1999 and for four performances of Faust in 2003. Gheorghiu also performed at the Met as Liù in Puccini's Turandot in 2000; as Violetta in La traviata opposite Jonas Kaufmann in 2006 and 2007; as Amelia in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra in 2007; as Mimì in La bohème in 2008; as Magda in the 2008/2009 season in the co-production of La rondine by Royal Opera House and San Francisco Opera, the Met's first performance of the opera since 1936; and for the 2009/2010 season she appeared as Violetta, replacing her previous engagement as Marie Antoinette in a rare revival of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles, which was replaced due to the recession.
In December 2000, Gheorghiu performed the title role in the film Tosca, directed by Benoit Jacquot, together with Roberto Alagna and Ruggero Raimondi. One year later, in 2002, Gheorghiu interpreted Juliette in the movie Roméo et Juliette, alongside Roberto Alagna and Tito Beltrán, also released on DVD.
Gheorghiu has concentrated her repertoire on several different roles: Violetta, Mimì, Magda, Adina, and Juliette. In 2003, she debuted as Nedda in Pagliacci and as Marguerite in Faust. A soprano with a large range and a dark coloured voice, Gheorghiu is also able to sing spinto soprano roles. She sang in her first Tosca at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 2006. Her performance was an overall success, although because the famous Zeffirelli production of 1964 was replaced by a new production (which premiered with her), there was comparison between the Toscas of Gheorghiu and Maria Callas, for whom the Zeffirelli production was designed.
In November 2007 Gheorghiu made her debut at San Francisco Opera, receiving favorable reviews for her Magda in La rondine, the production of which she also starred in and premiered on 7 May 2002 at London's Royal Opera House.
On 20 June 2008, she performed in the Met Summer Concert in Prospect Park, New York City. In October, she performed at the Memorial Concert for Luciano Pavarotti in Petra, where she also performed an unconventional duet of "Là ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni with Sting.
On 31 December 2008, Gheorghiu premiered the new production of La rondine at the Metropolitan Opera, together with Roberto Alagna, Marius Brenciu, Lisette Oropesa and Samuel Ramey. The opera was last performed at the house over 70 years ago. She received some favorable reviews including that of The Epoch Times, which read "Gheorghiu embodies the part, as actress and singer, with her natural charisma." whereas that of The New York Times was more mixed: "Ms. Gheorghiu, as Magda, sings with gleaming sound and wonderfully dusky colorings in the strong top register of her voice. But the earthy richness of her mid-range singing sometimes turns breathy, and her low voice is curiously weak."
In July 2011, Gheorghiu sang the title role in Tosca at the Royal Opera House conducted by Antonio Pappano which was released on DVD and Blu-ray, and the following September returned there for the revival of Faust, which was broadcast live in cinemas all over the world. In April 2012, she appeared for the first time at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, in a concert of duets with Roberto Alagna.
In June 2012, she celebrated 20 years since her debut on the stage of the London Royal Opera House, by performing in La bohème with Roberto Alagna. In July 2012, she held her first master class at the Georg Solti Accademia in Castiglione della Pescaia, Italy. She returned for a second master class in 2016. In November 2012 she returned to San Francisco Opera to perform in Puccini's Tosca.
In March 2015 she debuted as Charlotte in Massenet's Werther at the Vienna State Opera, to great critical acclaim. She also sang the role of Charlotte in August at the Salzburg Festival in a concert performance with great success. In July, Gheorghiu made her debut at the Verbier Festival with guitarist Miloš Karadaglić in a special recital at The Église.
In October 2015, Gheorghiu appeared in Australia for the first time, performing in two exceptional gala concerts at the Sydney Opera House and at Hammer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne. Later the month, she performed Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in the Luc Bondy production with great reviews. Between her two Tosca performances, she performed at the Richard Tucker Opera Gala, at the David Geffen Hall, which was broadcast on 5 February 2016 on PBS.
In November 2015, Gheorghiu sang at the Elena Obraztsova Opera Ball at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. She co-organized and performed in a humanitarian concert at the Romanian Athenaeum on 29 November to raise funds for the victims of the Colectiv nightclub fire. In December, Gheorghiu sang together with Ramón Vargas and Ghiță Petean in a gala concert at Opéra de Monte-Carlo, from which all proceeds went to the "Fondo Memorial Eduardo Vargas", established in memory of the tenor's deceased son.
In 2016, Gheorghiu returned in the title role of Puccini's Tosca at the Royal Opera House and received great critical acclaim. She was scheduled to appear in 5 performances, but sang in a total of 7 performances. She also returned as Tosca at the Vienna State Opera alongside Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel in April 2016. In September 2016, Gheorghiu performed in Tosca at the Berlin State Opera with "loud and prolonged ovation".
2017 marks 25 years since Gheorghiu's international debut at the Royal Opera House in 1992. She performed there in Adriana Lecouvreur in February 2017. In October of that year she made her house debut at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, again as Adriana Lecouvrer.
Gheorghiu performed at the reopening gala of the Covent Garden Royal Opera House in December 1999 and the Teatro Malibran in Venice in 2001. In 2002, she sang at the Prom at the Palace, the event that marked the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II. She was invited as a performing artist at the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Concert. In 2005, she sang at the opening the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, in the presence of Queen Sofía of Spain, and Queen Beatrix's Jubilee Gala in Amsterdam.
She took part in the "Divas in Beijing" concert series held during the 2008 Summer Olympics. In 2009, she was invited to honor Grace Bumbry at the 32nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors, where she performed "Vissi d'arte" from Puccini's Tosca in the presence of Barack Obama.
In 2012, Gheorghiu was the special guest at the Vienna Opera Ball, where she performed accompanied by conductor Georges Prêtre and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Later the year, she was the guest of honour at the London Royal Opera House gala, organized to raise funds for the Royal Opera House Foundation, which was attended by Queen Elizabeth II.
Gheorghiu met tenor Roberto Alagna when performing in La bohème at the Royal Opera in 1992. By the time, they were both married; she was married to plumbing engineer Andrei Gheorghiu. In 1994, Alagna's wife died of cancer. She divorced in the same year, but retained his surname due to the musical background of the family, with whom she still remains good relationship. In April 1996, they were married by New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, during a run of La bohème at the Metropolitan Opera. The couple have sung together often on stage and on studio recordings.
In an interview with The Independent, she mentioned Alagna's jealousy towards her decisions of performing with other artistic partners, especially Jonas Kaufmann. In October 2009, Alagna said in an interview in Le Figaro that they had separated.
Following the separation, she declined to appear opposite Alagna in Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera in December 2009. The divorce was called off in December 2009. In a March 2011 interview with the Daily Express she stated that she and Alagna were back together yet she still wanted to sing separately from him for a while. They were seen together in March 2011 backstage at London's Royal Opera House where Alagna was performing in Aida. Later that year, they jointly opened the amphitheatre in Katara, Qatar. In June 2012, they sang together in two performances of La bohème at the Royal Opera House to commemorate the 20th anniversary since they met in the very same production. They also sang at a joint concert in Buenos Aires, and had planned to perform together in Manon Lescaut and Adriana Lecouvreur in future seasons. In January 2013, they had agreed to divorce.
On occasion, Gheorghiu has had difficult relationships with opera house managements and directors. Some, but not all, of them have stemmed from her opposition to directors who, as she put it in an interview with ABC "want to express their own fantasies, forgetting about the characters. At times, she says, what they put on stage goes against both the story and the music." She has attributed her outspokenness to her upbringing in Romania under the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu:
"Because I grew up in a country where there was no possibility of having an opinion, it makes me stronger now. Lots of singers are frightened about not getting invited back to an opera house if they speak out. But I have the courage to be, in a way, revolutionary. I want to fight for opera, for it to be taken seriously. Pop music is for the body, but opera is for the soul."
In 1996, Gheorghiu was cast as Micaëla in a new production of Bizet's Carmen, opposite Waltraud Meier and Plácido Domingo at the Metropolitan Opera. The production by Franco Zeffirelli called for the role to wear a blonde wig, which she disliked. When the Met toured the production in Japan in 1997, she refused to wear it on the first night to which then general manager Joseph Volpe famously declared, "The wig is going on, with you or without you" and replaced her with an understudy. She then resumed the performances with the wig entirely covered by the hood of her cape.
Volpe had planned to engage Gheorghiu in Violetta Valery for a new production of La traviata, to premiere in November 1998 and directed by Zeffirelli. Alagna was to sing the role of Violetta's lover, Alfredo Germont. According to Volpe, Gheorghiu and Alagna argued with the staff and the director over production details and continually delayed signing the contract. They eventually signed their contracts, and faxed them to the Met one day past their deadline. Volpe refused to accept them. The production opened with Patricia Racette and Marcelo Álvarez as the lovers.
In September 2007, Gheorghiu was dismissed from Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of La bohème by General Manager William Mason, for missing rehearsals and costume fittings, and generally "unprofessional" behavior. Gheorghiu said in a statement that she had missed some rehearsals to spend time with her husband, who was singing at the Met in Roméo et Juliette and rehearsing for Puccini's Madama Butterfly and added, "I have sung Bohème hundreds of times, and thought missing a few rehearsals wouldn't be a tragedy. It was impossible to do the costume fitting at the same time I was in New York.
In August 2009, Gheorghiu canceled all her scheduled 2010 Met performances of Carmen, for "personal reasons". It would have been her first public performance of the title role. This was later attributed to her separation from her husband, Roberto Alagna, who was scheduled to sing opposite her. She also cancelled other Met performances scheduled near the end of 2010. In March 2011 she cancelled all her scheduled performances of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at the Met, citing illness. Only days later she cancelled all her performances in the scheduled new production of Gounod's Faust during the Met's 2011/2012 season claiming artistic reasons according to her manager. Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, commented that her frequent cancellations had become "an increasingly difficult problem for [the Met]" but also said that "some future plans" were still in place.
After a run of Adriana Lecouvreur at the Royal Opera House, Gheorghiu was supposed to make an opera debut at the Teatro Colón in the same role. She walked out just before her first performance on 8 March 2017, accusing the administration of unprofessional behaviour, discourtesy and pre-contractual breaches. Initially claiming the situation was "for exclusively artistic reasons", the opera later responded in a statement that it was the singer who agreed to arrive on 27 February and start rehearsal on 1 March, but instead arrived on 1 March then refused to participate in rehearsals and to meet any representative. However, this is contradicted by the fact that her last Adriana Lecouvreur performance at the Royal Opera House was on 27 February. Her performances were taken over by Argentine soprano Virginia Tola.
The EMI recording of Jules Massenet's Manon with Gheorghiu in the title role won the 2001 Gramophone Award for "Best Opera Recording" and was nominated for "Best Opera Recording" in the 2002 Grammy Awards. The EMI recording of Tosca with Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna and Ruggero Raimondi in the title roles brought her the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis award in 2002. In 2004, Gheorghiu won the Victoires de la musique classique award for the best opera recording for Bizet's Carmen issued by EMI Classics.
Gheorghiu has won 5 Gramophone Awards, most recently for Madama Butterfly in 2009. She has also won Gramophone Awards in 1997 for Puccini's La rondine (Record of the Year), in 2000 for her album "Verdi Heroines" (Decca): Best Recital and Classic fM People's Choice Award in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, Gheorghiu won the Echo Klassik Award for "Female Singer of the Year". She also won Diapason d'Or Awards, Choc du Monde de la Musique in France, Cecilia Prize in Belgium, the Italian Musica e dischi, Foreign Lyric Production Award, the United States Critics' Award.
In December 2010, Gheorghiu was named Doctor Honoris Causa by George Enescu National University of Arts and the Order of the Star of Romania in the grade of Commander. In October 2012, Gheorghiu received the Nihil Sine Deo royal decoration from King Michael I, honoring her contribution to promoting Romanian culture in the world. In 2013, the DVD of Adriana Lecouvreur released by Decca where Gheorghiu plays the title role won at the International Classical Music Awards for Best DVD Performance.
In May 2014, Gheorghiu was included in the Gramophone Hall of Fame that celebrates the men and women whose contributions to classical music recording have proved the most influential and inspiring. In October 2014, Gheorghiu received the honorary title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the Gheorghe Dima Music Academy in Cluj-Napoca. In October 2015, Gheorghiu was awarded the European Cultural Award in a special gala ceremony in Dresden.
In May 2017 she was presented the title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Bucharest. In 2018, she received the "Victoire d'Honneur" (Honour of Victory) award in the Victoires de la musique classique and "Premio Puccini" award from the Foundation of Festival Puccini in December. In March 2019 she received the Global Star award in the "BraVo" International Professional Music Award in a ceremony held at the Bolshoi Theatre.
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