International opera star Angela Gheorghiu delivered a concert devoid of exposition when she took the IU Auditorium stage Wednesday night.
The Romanian soprano performed almost entirely in Italian and English, punctuated only by the audience’s applause before and after soaring art songs and arias.
As the hall darkened, only Gheorghiu’s “dark-toned” soprano and the onstage piano accompaniment rang through the building.
Freshman vocal performance student Virginia Mims sat with soprano voice professor Alice Hopper before the recital began.
“It’s going to be great, she holds herself to a very high standard,” Mims said. “I’m looking forward to hearing some of her internationally-acclaimed work.”
Originally from Adjud, a small town in Romania, Gheorghiu graduated from the National University of Music Bucharest in 1990. Her onstage performances have earned critical accolades, as have her CDs, which won her Gramophone Awards, Diapason d’Or Awards and the title “Female Artist of the Year” at the Classical Brit Awards twice.
Mims said she’d listened to several of Gheorghiu’s recordings and was familiar with her repertoire. Though Gheorghiu did not perform any works from Tosca, Mims’ favorite of her roles, the student said she was excited to hear the soprano perform.
“I really admire her vocal color ... her richness of tone,” Mims said.
Gheorghiu, who debuted in 1992 in London’s Royal Opera House, embodied a range of characters in the songs she plucked from different operas or composers. She has sung professionally for 23 years, and created a reputation of strong characterization and stage presence.
She became young girls or jilted lovers through flicks of her skirt or hair, or pleading gestures to the audience.
Elaine Finley, the director of residences in the IU Office of the President, said she hadn’t known what to expect from the performance when a friend invited her to attend.
“I was impressed with her picture, but I didn’t know whether she would perform Broadway and light opera, or ... French and Italian,” Finley said. “But it’s wonderful.”
The entire first half of the recital was in Italian, though Gheorghiu added pieces in English and Romanian in the second act.
“It seems as though her personality comes alive when she sings,” Finley said. “That’s a pleasure.”
Gheorghiu and pianist Jeff Cohen bowed together and left the stage approximately every four songs, only to return to more audience applause after each break.
A CD signing was also held in the IU Auditorium lobby immediately after the performance with sets of Gheorghiu’s work for sale throughout the evening.
Olga Impey, an IU professor emerita from the department of Spanish and Portuguese, attended with husband Michael and purchased a CD at the intermission.
“For me, it’s wonderful because I have very many memories from Romania, the opera in Bucharest,” Impey said. “It’s very nostalgic.”
Impey said the period of the music Gheorghiu performed and the cultural value in her story left her feeling sentimental during the recital.
“She’s the American dream,” Impey said. “Her father was a train conductor, and now she’s a diva in the opera.”
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