The Spring Theatre of the Milanese Autumn

At first, there was the spring, der Frühling blutet in Paris, and, with it, I livened up and got to my first concert of this season at the Romanian Atheneum – a 100% romantic concert of the “George Enescu” Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Christian Badea. The superb and so rarely played Concert for violin and orchestra by Schumann and a lot of Wagner 200. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how beautiful is the sound of the Philharmonic Orchestra. But the elegance of Badea’s vision, the balance and the posture of the dramatic progression made that the overtures of Der Fliegende Hollander and Tannhäuser did not sound triumphalist, but as they were intended to sound: romantic. For once, I was looking forward, with a smile on my face, to seeing if the conductor will “calm down” the brass. But this time it did not happen, on the contrary, the development of the theme in Tannhäuser resembled more to an invitation: “And now let me see what you are capable of!”. And indeed we saw. Enormous and of a romanticism bordering titanic dimensions. I had already known, when the concert finished and I got out again, in that evening of thrilling spring, that the echoes of the Flying Dutchman would fade away sooner than I wanted, in front of the intimism of the concert to take place the day after, 300 kilometers away from Bucharest.

Something had already seemed to happen about Angela Gheorghiu. She had appeared more often than usual, sometimes with Dan Grigore, singing in different places  some (too few) songs, not enough for a concert, but enough for keeping up an image and even an expectation. This is  how this concert appeared, almost overnight, in Bacău, presented as a rehearsal for a recital that Angela Gheorghiu and Dan Grigore will give in Teatro alla Scala, in Milan, on October the 6th. A recital of lieds, less habitual for the soprano until now.

I had last visited the Summer Theatre in Bacău a long time ago, to see a movie, and what I remembered was a summer cinema, like the ones at the seaside or the ones that used to exist in Bucharest. A modernization project transformed the theatre in an unbelievably modern hall, with many seats, even though, in the process, the communist architecture of the stage survived, as if it had been an architectonic monument, which obviously is not the case. But 1.500 seats represent a big number, if we think about the sad reality of Bucharest, which does not have enough and appropriate halls for concerts. Another premiere: this was the first time the soprano sang outside Bucharest. And this is a good sign, better than it could seem at first, this is normality. The fact that a local community found the necessary resources for the organization of a concert with a great star of the international opera must not be overlooked. Even though Angela is Romanian and she is affectively close to the place where she was born, imagine that her presence in Bacău is as interesting as somebody else from the Opera world would have sung there: Plácido Domingo or Anna Netrebko or Jonas Kaufmann, imagine whoever you like.

Angela Gheorghiu la Bacău
Angela Gheorghiu @ Bacău

Angela Gheorghiu and Dan Grigore are trying to build a relationship on stage, a chemistry not complete yet, but I am sure they will succeed until October, as their efforts are obvious and successful. At first, I was surprised by the absence of the program of the concert, and the fact that the two announced they were going to present each song was an act of generosity, that attracted the audiences’s admiration. Little by little I understood why there was no program. What was supposed to be a performance of around 40-45 minutes lasted more than an hour and a half, and included no less than 19 pieces (with the encores).

Of course, a recital with opera arias is more attractive. But if you want to enjoy the beauty of a great opera artist’s timbre, than the lieds are a very good path. I liked very much the choice of a piece by Rameau for the opening of the concert. Then, I was amazed by Rachmaninov (Vocalises was absolutely spectacular) and Chopin, but, at least for my subjectivity, the Romanian repertoire seemed to be the best. This was a music the two artists had been inhabiting for a long time, with all its subtleties (and emphases) perfectly mastered. Angela made all this music seem accessible, flirting with Dan Grigore and with the audience, seducing them, showing everybody a very good vocal shape. I liked Bade, pentru ochii tăi Sweetheart, for Your Eyes (Tiberiu Brediceanu), Ochi albaștri – Blue Eyes (Eduard Caudella), but also O mio babbino caro (who would not like it?).

As for the pianist, more than Schubert’s Impromptu I simply loved Prelude and Adagio (from Suite in Ancient Style) by George Enescu, so impressed by J.S. Bach’s spirit that it reminded me, for several minutes, of the melancholy and resignation of the Chorale Prelude “Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesus Christ”. And let me be clear, I am not an unconditional admirer of Enescu.

This was a recital that was worth the distance to Bacău and not only to that city, but to any other place in România. After I had missed her in Milan, in La bohème, last autumn (but I discovered Anita Hartig in no other place than La Scala), I took my revenge this time in front of the Italians. Yesterday I saw what the Italian audience will see only after nearly six months of waiting.

On Thursday, 25th April – The Romanian Atheneum
Richard Wagner: Der Fliegende Hollander, Tannhäuser, Prelude and Isolda’s Death
Robert Schumann: Violin Concerto in D minor
Conductor: Christian Badea, “George Enescu” Philarmonic Orchestra
Violin: Bogdan Zvorișteanu

On Friday, 26th April – Summer Theatre in Bacău
Recital Angela Gheorghiu and Dan Grigore.

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