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October 14, 2009

Opera's love couple, Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, on the rocks

Soap opera and real opera often collide.

It's not exactly news, but tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Angela Gheorghiu, who have been separated for a while, are heading for divorce court.

Once dubbed opera's "love couple" and famously married on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in 1996 (with then-mayor Rudy Giuliani officiating), had a great run together early on, delighting audiences when they performed in operas together. They also developed a reputation for being extremely difficult offstage, with many an unflattering story about making demands of one kind or another.

Still, when they were in the mood, and in peak voice, they could deliver the goods very impressively. Too bad their marriage is on the rocks.

This week, things heated up between the singers. The tenor told an interviewer that his wife wouldn't hear of divorce. She fired back on her Web site: “Angela Gheorghiu wishes to emphasize that she has been separated from Roberto Alagna for the last two years. Her attempts to save the marriage in this period failed. Having initiated divorce proceedings months ago, she awaits the finalisation of their divorce as soon as possible. Ms. Gheorghiu understands that Mr. Alagna is bitter about this situation. As for her part, contrary to his declarations, she would like to live her life now with peace and tranquillity.” Alas.

To recall the "love couple" in happier times, here they are in the balcony scene from Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette":

Posted by Tim Smith at 12:24 PM | | Comments (29)


Two egos (which have surely grown exponentially since 1996) of those dimensions would seem like a recipe for complete failure. I'm not surprised in the least. _One_ high-profile (read: self-absorbed) singer is usually enough of a headache; putting two of them together could only be sheer hell (especially for the people who have to deal with them).

I suppose the only surprise is that it lasted as long as it did. TIM


So Little Miss Nobody Soprano has decided to call it curtains on Little Mr Nobody Tenor.

I shall make enquiries and follow this up.

Angela Gheorghiu has always had far more talent than her husband. He was often crass and arrogant. She is well shot of him. Unfortunately, she pulled out of Carmen at the Met, a production designed for her by Sir Richard Eyre. He should have graciously left instead, but his behavior is expected.

It's hard to say whose fault it is - what do we know about their marriage after all? I have Romeo et Juliette at home and it's particularly precious because they fell in love on the set, so neither was acting.
It's nice to have hope that some celebrity couples are stronger than others, but like Dmitri Hvorostovsky once said in his interview: "To save the marriage one of the singing spouses has to quit singing".
Or leave?

Yes, Angela is a wonderful singer and the more interesting artist of the two; it's her recordings I buy, not his!

p.s. to Crew Mantle: If Gheorghiu and Alagna are "nobodys", why bother paying any attention to them at all?

Let me stick up for Alagna a little bit here. I readily admit he didn't live up to his potential, but the artistry he displayed on his debut CD back in the '90s was remarkable. His sensitivity and nuance in 'E la storia solita,' for example, set a new standard in my book. TIM

I agree: I also consider Alagna very talented. I love his French Arias CD. He brings that "something" into every aria that makes it sound so unique.
I also think he is an unbeatable Romeo. I've heard quite a few, but every time I think Romeo, I think Roberto Alagna.
Even in his forties his Romeo is younger than many young Romeos.

Thanks for the comments. TIM

They managed to hide their differences well enough at the Met last year for a terrific La Rondine, though Roberto did sound a little strained at times.

By the way, isn't this Gounod, not Massenet?


Of course it's Gounod. I was just seeing if anyone actually read my posts. Thanks ever so. TIM

Gheorghiu is a spoilt brat and Alagna is not far behind. Why do so called intelligent people waste their money on them?

The worst thing is the reaction of those "know-it-alls" such as the horrible Opera Gossip Chic. Alagna and Gheorghiu are imperfect as both human and artists. Let them leave their lives and let's admire them on the stage.

Excuse me, Alagna was THE new, new tenor & she was UNKNOWN when he married La Gheorghiu, who was one one a hundred similar attractive sopranos. She used him, chewed him up & spit him out. No wonder he says that without her he feels peaceful & serene.

OMG - how dare you say he should have canceled his "Carmen" - She was singing "Carmen" ( Actually not a good role for her - it is a Mezzo role after all) for the first time at the Met which is why the big production - it is one of his BEST roles - believe it or not, there are many people who couldn't care less about her, who think her a poor imitation of Callas, and who actually love & respect Alagna, who, whatever you say about him, refuses to be put in a box, and who is constantly trying new things.
Alagna & Garanca, who are currently singing "Carmen" at Covent Garden (ROH) have great chemistry & electricity, according to the reviews, and they are going to sing together at the Met in Dec. & Jan. Hurrah! I've got my tickets & can't wait!

2 Opera Singers + Marriage = Crazy Azz People

Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart provided the exception that proves the rule, I guess. TIM

Well well well. You obviously haven't listened to the Gheorghiu/Alagna "Carmen" recording! Sir Richard Eyre designed this new production for her. He also designed the Traviata that put her on the map in 1994. As for the crass Mr. Alagna being more famous than she was when they married. Wrong ! No soup for you!

So I assume since you are calling Alagna crass, that you are implying that La Gheorghiu is "classy" - but it was she who moved in on Alagna at his most vulnerable moment in 1994, when his wife was barely in her grave. Oh, and wasn't she married at the time? Oh, and after she divorced her husband, didn't she keep his name simply because he comes from a distinguished musical family in Romania? And wasn't she the one who told a reporter that she had sex with her husband to relax before a performance? - Yup, she is one classy lady!

Both Alagna and Gheorghiu are not perfect but I have to bring some information to the discussion.(to yellolabfan)
1.Roberto confessed they both fell in love(at first sight)in 1992.They decided not to follow their feelings(each was married).But they met again in 1994 and...(nobody use the other vulnerability).
2.Angela was always proud of Gheorghiu family and she has become famous with this name before she married Alagna).

Gosh yellowlabfan get your dog hairs out of your ears and listen to the singing. You are so oppionated about other people's private lives and their private lives are nobody's business, although I see you fail to mention the loss of Angela's sister in a car crash and the loss of her brother-in-law too. AG is a far better singer than her ex and really that's all that matters isn't it? Why are Americans so preoccupied with trash?

Roberto and Angela garbage. Why should anyone really care ?
Speaking of tremendous tenors, what do you think of New Jersey's tenor, James Valenti, who will be making his Met debut in La Traviata in April 2010 ?

I can't quite agree with your description of the former love couple (and I do rather prefer more civil language). As for Valenti, I was impressed when I first heard him, a little less so the second time. Still, very promising.TIM

So much to answer - Alagna & Gheorghiu didn't "happen to meet" in 1994 - she flew to his side when she found out his wife was dead (Natalie Dessay told her) ostensibly to help care for his daughter (hmmm).

As to you, Alicia cara, I am simply pointing out that your precious Callas wanna be is not as classy as you seem to think, maybe a little crass and arrogant?

Concernant sa voix et son style de chanter, elle a de bon points mais n'est pas extraordinaire. Sa voix n'est pas meuillere que de dizaines d'autre chanteuses.

I was sad to read of their divorce, but am sad at the response of other people. Divorce happens in a lot of marriages and both parties are usually to blame. Is it simply because it is Angela and Roberto that people feel the need to verbally insult them and call them names? I suppose I don't understand this mentality. From the most negative responses, maybe you should ask yourselves if it is far classier to be like an opera singer who has a child and omits to get married. Is it? It certainly appears safer as regards comments that belittle those that try and create beautiful art with their voices and yet are as human as the rest of us.

I wish them both well, and can see that maybe both will sing even better in the future.

Yes, I'm a huge fan of theirs, but a big fan of many opera singers of today be they married, single, pregnant, divorced, it isn't my business. The voices and performances I pay to see are what counts.

People used to trash Maria Callas way back when, too. Some opera fans can't resist the urge, it seems!

I've noticed. Thanks for commenting. TIM

Tim, Tim, Tim ... please stop spreading the untrue story they were married on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera - they were married at City Hall, as Alagna himself stated in a May, 2006 interview with Sue Fox of The Independent: "Because we had met in La Boheme, we decided that we would marry in New York while we were singing La Boheme at the Met. But it wasn't easy to find a space in the schedule. At the same time as the performances, we were rehearsing for a huge, six-hour Gala concert. We literally had to snatch 10 minutes between rehearsals to go down to City Hall, the day before the Gala."

The Gala referenced was the James Levine 25th Anniversary Gala - they were married on Friday, April 26th at City Hall, sang the matinee of Boheme on Saturday the 27th (where Volpe announced their Friday marriage before the performance) and performed in the Levine Gala (which lasted from 6pm until a little after 2 am) that evening. I dare say they slept late on Sunday!

Just shows you how unreliable the stuff you read on the Web can be. Thanks. TS

Angela is one of the greatest artists of our age. Her beauty and talent defy description.
She can do no wrong in my book.
It's no-wonder that gifted people can be difficult; what with paparazzi and media types always taking pot shots.
Not that they're any better then you and me but we should respect them for their talent and travail.
We are all a little richer because of her gifts.

Dear Raisa:
So you think Alagna is the standard for Romeo? Too bad you never heard Corelli. Or Gedda.Or Kraus. Or even Domingo, for that matter.

Anuone who heard both of them sing can say that she was THE ARTIST! Come on people.... what a voice!!

What a very nasty group of know-aal have commented here! I thing Georghiu's Violetta (as recorded) is illuminating and I love her. Alangna' s Pear; Fisher's is tjhe same. Perhaps the vicious commentators shour LISTEN and even WATCH??

I too could not help but notice how 'creative' critics can be when dishingout artfully crafted awful remarks-while at the same moment make a show and pretense of their inside knowledge re. lives of the rich and famous. Only a few , like me are saddened by yet another failure of a relationship. I still cherish my Elisir d'Amore, and "Classics on a Summer Evening" DVD's.
Most have become a nation of gossip mongers, like mongrels sniffing for tibits on the ground. Notice how Tiger Woods is made to go around with his tail betwen his legs for months...while the bimbos who saw an opportunity for some easy cash and fame..are practically modern day divas, pure as the driven snow? What is wrong with all of these pictures?

have DVD recording of them in L'Elisir D'Amore-- I'm impressed with their musicality, and intend to buy more DVDs. They obviously loved one another at one time--so their break-up is sad.
Most artists get some notes wrong some of the time-- but I look for the musicality, the musicality that makes you think maybe that's how the composer heard it in his head when he was composing it!

I am always amazed at how quidkly individuals, particularly Americans, are eager to point the finger at the man as the bad one when a marriage breaks up. On talent, If you truly have seen them perform and listened to their voices in a stage performance or heard them individually or together on recordings, putting aside your bias for the victimized woman, you would honestly have to say that they are both equally talented and, I might add, physically beautiful as well.

Sometimes, it seems, it is better not to know too much about the artists and simply enjoy their work. Off course everyone would like their favorit singers would be as flawless as their singing... I guess we all know how difficult it is to live "normal" life if you are an opera singer. It is difficult to be married or have children if one has to move constantly from opera to another etc.. Let's all be thankfull some talented people take these risks and sing for us. Let's also hope Alagna and Georghiu will survival their personal disaster. Alagnas performance in Don Carlos of MET 2010 suggest he has been able to use also this experience in his work: one could hardly imagine better interpretation of a man who has lost the love of his life (though his performance in Paris 1996 comes close..).

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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