Two weeks from now, EMI Records will drop a new CD by Mrs. Roberto Off-Again-On-Again Alagna (AKA: Angela Gheorghiu). Homage to Maria Callas - Favourite Opera Arias is a collection of beloved French and Italian operatic masterpieces - apparently inspired by the career and recordings of Maria Callas.
Regarding her latest recording, La Gheorghiu - who, it seems, has fancied herself as the next Callas for quite some time - says:
Callas was original in everything she did; she was a phenomenon. In every performance she gave her all. She was the most wonderful painter and you can always hear exactly the right color in her voice. Just hearing her sound, you understand all the power or fragility of her emotions. That's a rare talent and a great gift ... EMI was her record label and it's mine too. It feels like a family.I'm afraid that's right where the "family feel" stops ... that is to say: I'm not sure Callas' fans will be as quick to embrace her self-coronation as the next La Divina.
Michael White of The Telegraph blogs about his recent experience at the launch party for EMI's latest ploy to make money off of Callas' name ... the launch party for Homage to Maria Callas.
A depressing evening last night at the Ivy where EMI were hosting a party for Angela Gheorghiu and her new CD ...Wait ... there's VIDEO? Oh yes, indeed. Bring. It. On.
... Most depressing was the rictus-grinning phoniness of the whole thing, as EMI staff fawned over the diva, choked with laughter at her least remarkable remarks, and smothered her with flattery so absurd she should have been offended by it – as any self-respecting artist of integrity could only be. It felt like people humouring a madwoman.
Underneath it all was the sense of desperation that is presumably endemic at EMI these days. Commercially, artistically, this once great company seems to have lost its way. Its modest presence in the recent Gramophone Awards was thanks entirely to Antonio Pappano. The rest of its catalogue doesn't appear to be doing much of interest. And as for this new release, it plants Gheorghiu on dangerous ground – particularly as it comes with a promotional video that splices and superimposes performances of Callas and Gheorghiu singing the same aria from Carmen and making the clear suggestion that they're artists of equal, interchangeable calibre.
That Gheorghiu is a singer of outstanding qualities I don't dispute. But Callas she is not. And there will be a lot Callas fans who don't take the comparison too kindly.