A little-known opera by Puccini provided the vehicle for Romanian superstar Angela Gheorghiu’s San Francisco Opera debut last week. The opera, La Rondine, a Viennese cream-puff wrapped in Italian histrionics deserves to remain obscure — especially with the cloying sets and mono-dimensional lighting provided by the underwhelming SF Opera production. But the voice! The chance to hear the effortless crescendoes, the burnished center and remarkable beauty of Gheorghiu’s voice was worth driving up to the city for.
Her’s is not only a rare instrument, but the packaging is also terrific. Gheorgiu, who apparently owns Puccini these days, is a tall, statuesque, gorgeous woman. She can act, she can move and she sings like a young Maria Callas. If only we could pronounce it, her’s would easily become an operatic household name.