Sunday, 28 November 2010

Head above the parapet - Angela Gheorghiu

Two weeks ago, Roxana Briban committed suicide, frustrated because her voice had let her down. "She wanted to sing, even if she wasn't paid" said her husband.  Briban and Angela Gheorghiu grew up at the same time in the same environment. Talented kids tend to be isolated from their peers at the best of times and some,  like Gheorghiu, are hothoused from an early age. They're immensely driven people, so when they don't sing it is not for flippant reasons. So Gheorghiu cancels? She's not the first and won't be the last. But the fuss is becoming a kind of bloodsport, which may be amusing for some, but isn't helpful to anyone who really cares about art and artists.

Opera is an unnatural world, where singers are often portraying extreme personalities. It's their job to reflect emotional nuance. So some singers are highly strung? So? Talented people often expect much more of themselves and get stressed when they can't be perfect.  Someone once said that depressives are good people, despite their self-destructive han- ups, because they see the world as it is. Maybe being sensitive is a character fault, but I think it's better than being pig-headed. Singers are not machines.

Of course it's maddening when she cancels but some of the abuse she's been getting goes way beyond that. Personal abuse is totally unacceptable. That AG goes on at all shows courage. Even before she gets into costume, she knows already that there are people out there relishing every weakness, willing her to collapse. The more flak that's piled on, the more they get spooked, and the less likely they are to take risks. It's a vicious cycle. The wonder is that singers bother at all.

The other day I was watching someone standing on a parapet, contemplating suicide. Most of the onlookers empathized, but there are always a few who yell "Jump!" as if it's entertainment. Maybe it makes them feel more important? The world is unfortunately full of those who take pleasure in bringing others down.

Opera has always brought out bullies : remember Callas and Schwarzkopf hate mobs ? Now there's cyber bullying. Because of social media, the way opinion is formed has changed. Now everyone has an opinion, no matter how ill-informed. Sorry, but no one can be balanced in 140 characters or whatever it is. Reputations can be made or destroyed by manipulating the media. Sometimes total con artists are adored because they know how to play the game. What you hear isn't necessarily true.If AG were really blood thirsty she's put up a false front. Remember the Slatkin thing? He's no opera conductor. She told him so when no-one else dared.

No easy answers.  But in the long term, what's better for everyone is a bit more basic human kindness and respect for what goes into being creative. In some ways the plot of Adriana Lecouvreur is a cry for understanding, from which we might learn.
Please see my review, the reviewi n Opera Today and much else on this site(many p;hotos, with commentary)

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