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Angela Gheorghiu’s late show: the simple truth

April 18, 2016 by norman lebrecht

36 comments.


Here’s what we hear indirectly from the stage manager in charge of Saturday’s Tosca at Vienna State Opera:

He says the audience wouldn’t stop clapping last Saturday after Kaufmann’s first “E lucevan le stelle” for around seven minutes.

Once Angela realized he would repeat the aria, she went back to her dressing room. Picked up by the stage manager before the aria ended and heading back to the stage, she was surprised when the conductor refused to stop for a second ovation (as the conductor of the April 9 performance had done).

That left her too little time to reach the stage. She got there late.

Strange, though, that the usually outspoken Angie has stayed so shtum.

gheorghiu kaufmann


Comments (36)

  1. CGDA says:

    “the audience wouldn’t stop clapping […] for around seven minutes ”

    Clearly, opera audiences are very conscious about pace and dramatic effect.

  2. SG says:

    A laughable, convoluted and highly unlikely scenario. The aria isn’t very long. Any sensible singer would just have sat on a chair and waited for the second rendition of the aria. She would only have gone back to her dressing room in a state of high dudgeon. I can only imagine the frantic pleadings that went on backstage. Nice try PR for the Vienna State Opera but I wasn’t born yesterday.

    1. julie says:

      You were probably born today, based on the fact that you judge someone without actually knowing…well..anything. Ridiculous how many people are looking for scandal when there is none. She was absolutely divine on Saturday night. The best Tosca out there, no doubt about that! Bravi to everyone!

      1. Absurdistan says:

        Julie, de gustibus non est disputandum and all that, but it is a really difficult for a mediocre, trashy opportunist such as Mr. Burlacu to resemble anything definable as divine.

        I would settle for decent, in her case.

        1. julie says:

          Absurdistan, sorry but I have to repeat myself: Go check yourself or go somewhere else when you feel frustrated (all the time I guess)

          1. Absurdistan says:

            Not a problem, Julie dear, as an Angela Burlacu blind (and deaf) adorer as you are I would certainly expect you to repeat yourself.

            By the way, you can say whatever about me, it amuses me. I won’t respond in kind, it’s against the policy of this site.

            You don’t do any favors though to the washed-out, vain, IQ-challenged “diva” who makes a fool of herself with worrying frequency.

            The more you “help” her, the stupider she looks. The way she sounds does enough in that respect.

          2. MDS says:

            Julie, you don’t have to repeat yourself. You could just… stop.

          3. julie says:

            you’re right..morons never understand

    2. dibarraga says:

      Her missed entrance was unforgivable. Fancy going back to her dressing room for one more run of the SHORT tenor aria. If she did, she is stupid, but more likely inventing a story to cover her. The mood was broken, the dramatic effect non-existent. I would’ve walked out .

  3. Patti Page says:

    The simplest explanation is usually the right one.

  4. Claire says:

    It is appalling that a tenor would repeat an aria during an opera and make his colleague wait. No matter why, this is not the soprano’s fault. He is the one who is wrong and thoughtless it is simply bad form

    1. Peter says:

      You clearly know nothing about opera. Why do you post?

    2. Peter says:

      Really? You consider the soprano’s silly diva ego a higher priority than the hundreds of people in the audience, who enjoy an extra arioso by Kaufmann.
      And Tosca is not even a very long opera.
      The singers are there to serve the paying audience. Which Kaufmann did.
      Some lucky voice owners think they are the second coming of Christ. Delusional.
      The star cult corrupts the minds, the less sharper ones usually quicker.

    3. Bruno says:

      I am appalled that some people would consider the fact that an artist, upon insisting pleas by the audience, would repeat an aria a form of disrespect towards the other artists on that performance. Repeating an aria, even if it has become rare, is one of the great traditions of our art, and was a standard feature of any opera performance in the XIXth century and a substantial part of the XXth century. I was done matter-of-factly throughout the history of opera, and is nothing but the sign of a pressing wish from the audience towards a specific artist; it bears no relation to the other artists taking part to that performance and is just a moment in time. I find it mind-boggling that some people would consider it disrespectful towards other artists. If other artists have to wait a bit more, they are all paid for it, some of them very well indeed, and 5 minutes more won’t make a difference; they are paid to be there until the end of the performance, regardless of whether another artist repeats an aria or not, it has nothing to do with them. If they are counting the minutes and looking at their watch, then they are clearly not in this for art’s sake, but for the money. If an artist takes exception to the fact that a colleague repeated an aria, then it is obviously only a sign of the petty jealousy that is so common amongst some, and certainly not worth defending for one second. Whoever has a problem with another artist repeating an aria should maybe get more involved in their own performance (which wouldn’t hurt some people), in the hope that the audience asks them to repeat their arias…

      1. Corrie says:

        Yes, totally agree with you ! It wasn’t his recital, to play what his fans want ,this is so unpolite of his part to let all his collegues and orchestra wait him to end his one-man show …

        1. dibarraga says:

          The point is not the repetition of the aria (I don’t agree with that either). BUT she missed an entrance! Unforgivable. I could not watch the rest of the opera after that….it was laughable. Di Barraga

  5. Mark Henriksen says:

    So, she would rather risk letting the opera come to an embarrassing and distracting stop of several minutes for a couple thousand opera patrons rather than take the chance of having to sit through an encore by a colleague. Does this say something about opera singers in general or just this one?

  6. Marshall says:

    On another august site where people had heard/seen the performance (I did not) she was indeed pissed at the perhaps unnecessary bis-now I see there’s some “semi-official” explanation. I see almost no one here heard the performance-but on this other site several people felt she was in good form, and it was the men who were not.

    I liked it in the bad old days at the Met where encores were strictly forbidden, even acknowledgement of applause. These encores have become concocted-certainly the ones in NY-such as the recent ones for Camarena (Gelb arranged them for publicity). In the old days, when there was no chance of them, given the quality and number of great singers the opera would never have continued. They certainly don’t contribute to opera as drama, do they?

    1. Dirk Fischer says:

      > In the old days, when there was no chance of them

      You mean, in the good old days of Gluck, Händel and Mozart, when it was more than usual to repeat arias several times? Ah, those amateurs…

  7. CDH says:

    They ought to fine her. (And anyone else who pulls such a stunt without a VERY valid — and validated — excuse).

  8. Fiona Janes says:

    I’m not sure who is at fault here. Him for breaking the thread of the opera by repeating his aria or her for not standing by in the wings for her entrance, OR the stage manager for not making sure she was there ready to go on. From an audience member view I would hate to break the flow of the opera and hear an aria twice. From a singer’s point of view I consider anyone repeating an aria indulgent and inconsiderate of ones colleagues as would be missing ones cue.

    1. Peter says:

      Sorry, but in the days this opera was composed, encores, repeating an aria just sung, was very common.
      Maybe it’s a sign of our amusical times, that people complain about the flow of the drama being disturbed. That’s ridiculous, because NOBODY, goes to the opera for the experience of the drama, layed down in the libretto, seriously. People come for the music (and the stars) primarily.

      1. AB says:

        Sorry, but this kind of “generalized” statement is bul…hit, pardon my language. Speak for yourself and not for everybody. Because me as opera-fan, I feel offended by such a comment. If Puccini wanted people to applaude, he would end the aria differently and wouldn’t have composed it through… He was a man of theatre and he exactly knew how and when to get the applause.

        1. Peter says:

          The generalization started with the post ahead of me, I only replied in style.
          You are overthinking this. If composer’s knew exactly how audiences react, they would never ever write a single failing piece of music…
          First of all, if Puccini wanted an aria, he would have written an aria. “E lucevan” is not even a full aria, so naturally Puccini was not going for a “full stop” simply for the lack of buildup of momentum.
          That people can react enthusiastically even to a short but emotionally charged arioso is something composers can not predict, even though Puccini was especially gifted in intentionally forcing the handkerchiefs out.
          If people feel like they have to release the buildup of emotional tension by cheering and applauding, than that is always justified, also when the score strictly did not foresee this. This is a bidirectional undertaking after all, the audience also gives, emotions also flow back on stage, not only from he stage (and the pit) into the audience’s hearts.

  9. S Daniel says:

    Sounds like the divo/diva wars. Long may they rage; these two are meant for each other.

  10. Bill Worley says:

    I have visited many singers in their dressing rooms at the Staatsoper and if my memory serves me right the principal ladies dressing room is not that far from the stage. my view Ms Georghiu should have waited at the side of the stage and the stage manger should not have let her disappear. On the subject of encores – I do not agree with them as they do disrupt the dram. I am one of the people who actually go to the opera for the music and the drama.

    I did not attend the performance on Saturday but I would be interested to know what reception Ms Georghiu got at curtain call.

    1. cabbagejuice says:

      This “truth” is too simple. Anyone not deaf could hear the orchestra intro.

  11. Bruce Ford says:

    In my thirty years of singing on the stage, I have NEVER missed an entrance in a performance. However, I can say with certainty that I have ALMOST missed entrances. So yes, it can happen to any performing Artist!

    So I say to my singing colleagues: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Or in my abridged edition: “S*** happens”.

  12. MissShelved says:

    As someone who did listen to the broadcast, I find it hard to cast stones at Kaufmann for taking the encore. Who knows what makes an audience tick? The Wiener Staatsoper hardly compares with the Bolshoi for paid cliques, so I doubt collusion. The applause went on for so long that, frankly, it made more dramatic sense to reprise the (short) aria and get back into the dramatic swing. And though I’ve no idea what “close” means in terms of the principal dressing rooms and the stage, Tosca’s Act III entrance is from below stage. So one really can’t imagine the logic in retreating to a dressing room on another level. If Gheorghiu was indeed deeply invested in the through dramatic line of the performance, it was a poor choice in that she interrupted the flow far more than the encore.

  13. Peter says:

    Opera within opera. Pure genius. What’s not to like?
    Exemplary “method acting” by Angela Gheorghiu.
    The major role of an exalted narcissistic singer in a drama about perverted love, sadism and corruption gets stung by jealousy when the other attention whore scores higher than her on the evening charts and acts it out, improvising in the moment 100% in character.

    Brava!!!

  14. Dramaking says:

    often bad publicity is the best publicity. People rather talk about her missing the entrance, then Jonas singing like a god! Best publicity stunt to direct attention to her!

  15. Milka says:

    This nonsense was allowed to go on mainly due to the dim wit conductor ,who had only
    to signal the orchestra to go on after the usual bravo bs had subsided ,he didn’t and
    so the farce continued not helped one bit by the tenor flavor of the evening.
    Shows what a dumb crowd attends these events who pay lip service to the art.
    The fanatic opera fans are indeed yokels of the lowest form. Can any one imagine
    Hamlet repeating any soliloquy to an hysterical theatre audience ? Turn it into
    an opera and you get this latest lunacy ……..

  16. Bellissima Luna says:

    Frankly, I’m saying this as someone whom is not a fan of Angela, it’s one missed cue. To say ‘it doesn’t happen to the best of us’ is complete rubbish. Callas, Sutherland, Tebaldi, Moffo, Caruso, Pavarotti, Caballe, Domingo, Fleming, DiDonato, Bartoli, etc. all have missed cues. It’s was one human mistake, and Angela, Jonas, and the audience have laughed it off. C’est la vie. Kaufmann’s had slip-ups and missed cues, as well, so I doubt he has ill feelings and resentment for Gheorghiu after one little error. If anyone is to blame, it’s the conductor, you cannot refuse to stop for a second ovation even if it “breaks the dramatic flow,” continuing on whilst an audience was applauding is disrespectful to the artist and audience. I do feel that the stage manager should have given Angela her cue earlier, though, as he was aware of how short the aria is. Granting her such little time to return to her dressing room before fetching her to make an entrance from below stage was not the best of ideas. Honestly, we need to stop making such a big deal out of nothing. Both Kaufmann and Gheorghiu are talented and established singers and great friends, we don’t need to make a mistake into a war between them.

  17. Olga says:

    The whole thing was funny, but nothing awful happened. The public enjoyed encore from JK and Angela did not oppose that. She and JK are good old friends, I guess. By the way, the audience in Vienna Opera demands encores sometimes if they hear something wonderful. It can happen in other opera houses too, even at the Met.

  18. Opera Critic says:

    I listened to the performance on radio, there were difficulties all the way through due to the last minute replacement conductor not understanding the individual idiosyncrasies of the particular singers, so the performance did not flow as one would expect. Even with the great singers on show and the wonderful orchestra present, unless the conductor really leads, more so in Puccini than in other opera, then things can get a little bumpy here and there. Neither tenor or soprano were in their best voices at the start but both warmed up by then end of the long scene in Act 1
    Having heard these singers together before, 5 years ago at Covent Garden, it was probably too much to hope for that we would catch lightning again.
    However, as I said, the performance did get better, Terfel was in full flow in Act 2 and was probably in the best voice of all three.
    As for the debacle in Act 3, I was surprised that the aria was encoded, the major opera houses have virtually stopped that in recent years.
    Having decided to encore the aria, it was then up to all concerned to bring the rest of the opera to a proper close. Whatever her reasons, it was very unprofessional of her to miss her cue, and for the conductor to have to stop the orchestra and just wait for her to return was severe embarrassment and was reminiscent of amateur night.
    i have heard many better performances of Tosca than this one, starry cast or not.

  19. Michonnet says:

    It’s understandable (though sad) that a philistine press only pays attention to any arts story when there’s an opportunity to scoff. But shouldn’t we at least attempt to assess the evidence before joining the yah-boo brigade?
    In this case the only widely published fragment of evidence is seriously flawed and misleading. A video has appeared on YouTube of the few seconds following Jonas Kaufmann’s encore of ‘E lucevan le stelle’, in which he responds to the non-appearance of his colleague Angela Gheorghiu and makes a jokey apology to the audience.
    Yet the full video of this event conveys a very different impression, and thoroughly supports the interpretation given to Norman Lebrecht by the stage manager and in a later opera house statement to the New York Times.
    In the full video, Mr Kaufmann can be seen as slightly embarrassed by the length and enthusiasm of applause for his Act III aria. Both he and conductor Jesus Lopez-Cobos are clearly reluctant to accede to the Vienna audience’s demand for an encore, but they eventually give in. Then at the end of this encore, Mr Lopez-Cobos moves briskly on, determined not to allow any further delay for applause.
    Approximate timings are as follows (taken from the unedited video):
    The first version of the aria lasts just over three minutes.
    The encore does not begin for a further six minutes.
    During this time Mr Kaufmann mostly stays in character, until an embarrassed grin after about three minutes of applause; just before this Mr Lopez-Cobos exchanges glances with the orchestra leader and shrugs, but no-one yet shows any sign of contemplating an encore. After more than five minutes of applause Messrs Kaufmann and Lopez-Cobos exchange glances and eventually accept the inevitability of an encore, which begins almost six minutes after the aria’s end.
    Mr Lopez-Cobos then proceeds without any pause at all at the end of the encore.
    Miss Gheorghiu’s cue thus arrives almost 9½ mins late!
    Only just over one minute then passes between the missed cue and Mr Lopez-Cobos starting up again, obviously having been told that Miss Gheorghiu has arrived.
    All of this is entirely congruent with the opera house statement (and the earlier explanation given to Mr Lebrecht), which made clear that following an encore at a previous performance, it had been agreed this would not happen again. Messrs Kaufmann and Lopez-Cobos attempted to stick to this agreement. After long delay, as the video makes obvious, the audience forced them to give in.
    Miss Gheorghiu’s comments following the earlier performance have been unfairly portrayed as indicating a stereotypically jealous, diva attitude. In fact she has a strong case against encores, especially in the case of this particular aria.
    The interruption caused by encores is dramatically indefensible, and though tenor and conductor palpably had the best intentions, a delayed encore, following various rueful grins and signals between them, was arguably worse than an instant one. In these extraordinarily drawn-out circumstances, it is understandable for Miss Gheorghiu to have misjudged how much time she had before her cue. Again it is understandable that the conductor refused (unlike at the previous performance) to pause for applause after the encore, but this would have added to Miss Gheorghiu’s (and probably the stage manager’s) confusion.
    Let’s remember what is being portrayed at this moment in the opera. A political prisoner awaits imminent execution. He reflects on the tragic irony of having to die, at a time when life has come to mean more than it ever did. His aria regrets not so much death itself; rather that death will terminate his relationship with Tosca.
    A man who has gambled his life for a revolutionary cause (and lost) now faces death, thinking not of the horrors of torture and execution nor of political failure, but of the sexual experiences from which death will deprive him.
    And when the Tosca is Angela Gheorghiu, this outlook on life (and death) becomes entirely credible.
    The extraordinary tragic drama of this moment is not enhanced by the condemned prisoner breaking off for grins, shrugs and encores.
    Yet in the circumstances what could Mr Kaufmann do? On the evidence of the full video I don’t think anyone should be condemned for this incident, and the generous applause of the Vienna audience for all concerned indicates that they felt likewise (perhaps recognising that the only ‘guilty’ parties here were themselves for persisting in demanding an encore!)
    Most regrettable has been the behaviour of the online troll community (and one or two journalists) in using the incident as further ammunition in an ongoing war against Angela Gheorghiu.
    For some, the coincidence of great talent and great beauty is an unbearable provocation, leading to vicious and frankly unpleasant obsessional carping.
    Though I’ve tried here to present the evidence of the full video dispassionately, I admit that my personal bias is in the opposite direction. Whereas some have eagerly seized an opportunity to criticise Miss Gheorghiu, I assume that we should defend art and beauty rather than drag them into the gutter. If susceptibility to female attractions is a crime, then I plead guilty: but better that than the reflex misogyny so often applied to this case.


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