Review: Delicacy and drama go hand in hand
Classical: Angela Gheorghiu, National Concert Hall
Following a nine-year absence, Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu returns to Dublin as part of the NCH's International Concert Series. She brings compatriot tenor Călin Brătescu with her as conductor Tiberiu Soare directs the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.
Their relatively short programme is fleshed out by encores, although by the interval one might well feel short-changed with the somewhat 'curate's egg' first half.
It begins well with the aria Io son l'umile ancella from Cilea's Adrianna Lecouvreur and Ms Gheorghiu's liquid tone flows effortlessly across the sympathetic orchestral accompaniment.
Bizet's Habanera (Carmen) is not quite as effective as one might hope with this gypsy hardly the sultry temptress the composer imagined, and Ms Gheorghiu's attempts at dance more soft-shoe shuffle than brassy stomp.
Happily matters lift with Part II. There is familiar Catalani and Puccini but it also presents the rarely heard L'altra notte from Boito's Mefistofele.
This finds Angela Gheorghiu at her most appealing as she catches the hallucinatory state of mind of the wretched Margherita perfectly. Delicacy and drama go hand in hand in her chilling characterisation.
Catalani's Ebben! Ne andrò lontana is equally beguiling with some wonderfully unforced top notes and marvellously floated phrases.
Puccini has jealous diva Tosca contrasted with captivated seamstress Mimi.
Here Călin Brătescu, as patriot Cavaradossi and poet Rodolfo, joins Ms Gheorghiu in duets from La Tosca and La bohème and, with convincing ardour, they bring the disparate lovers into musical, as well as sensuous, focus.
On his own, Călin Brătescu maybe needs more seductive tone in Don José's Flower Song (Carmen) but Pinkerton's Addio fiorito asil (Madama Butterfly) is ardent in feeling and expression as he regrets abandoning the hapless Cio-Cio-San and their child.