Angela Gheorghiu

Homage to Maria Callas

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It's understandable as a marketing strategy why a record company would title a recording by a contemporary artist as an homage to a legendary singer of the past; the name recognition alone is bound to attract attention. It's doing no favors to the contemporary singer, though, when the comparison is being drawn to a figure as iconic as Maria Callas. Since bursting onto the international scene in the mid-'90s, Angela Gheorghiu has developed an impressive career in a variety of roles, many of which do duplicate Callas'. Hers is a lighter instrument, both in vocal weight and dramatic power. The album is best appreciated as a recital of arias that Gheorghiu loves, many of which come from her core repertoire, without thinking about how the performances stack up next to Callas'. She is most impressive in the late 19th century and verismo Italian roles. Violetta seems like a role custom-made for Gheorghiu's strengths; she is fully convincing in the two scenes included here, is totally at ease vocally, and brings a focused dramatic intensity to the music. In the arias with the lower lying tessitura, like Delilah's "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix," and even to some extent the Habanera, she doesn't come across with the full power or the sumptuous legato that are ideal. The gossamer fioritura of "Col sorriso d'innocenza," from Bellini's Il pirata seems to lie a little outside her comfort zone. In the remaining repertoire, however, she is in full control and delivers potent, moving performances. Marco Armiliato leads the Royal Philharmonic in assured, surging accompaniments. EMI's sound is clean, clear, and detailed, but occasionally Gheorghiu's voice could afford to be foregrounded a little more than it is.

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