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Monday, March 7, 2011

Angela Ankles Faust

Marina Poplavskaya to sing Marguerite in new Met production.
Angela Gheorghiu,
in between cancellations.

Angela Gheorghiu is out of the Metropolitan Opera's current run of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, but the dark-eyed Romanian diva continues to make headlines. The latest: she has dropped the bomb on her commitment to sing Marguerite in the Met's new production of Gounod's Faust. The cause was cited as that old stand-by: "artistic differences."

The cancellation is the latest by Ms. Gheorghiu, a soprano who rose to international fame after she was cast (by Sir Georg Solti) in a 1994 Covent Garden production of La Traviata. The string started in 1998, when she and her husband, tenor Roberto Alagna, attempted to inflate their fees to appear in Franco Zeffirelli's second Met production of that same opera. They were replaced by soprano Patricia Racette and Argentinean tenor Marcelo Álvarez, and the show went on anyway.

More recently, Ms. Gheorghiu pulled out of the Dec. 31 2009 prima of the Met's new David McVicar staging of Bizet's Carmen. An early 2010 run in La Traviata (that same Zeffirelli production) featured the singer, although conductor Leonard Slatkin was fired withdrew for personal reasons after the prima.

The Roméo cancellation is the most recent. Ms. Gheorghiu pulled out of all seven performances of the opera this season, citing what was reported to be a month-long case of the flu. Her replacement is the experienced Korean soprano Hei-Kyung Hong, who was initially engaged to "cover" these performances.
A gilded cage: a scene from the ENO Faust.
Photo by Catherine Ashmore © 2010 English National Opera.
Faust was one opera that Ms. Gheorghiu actually sang at the Met recently, taking the role of Marguerite in the company's laughably bad 2005 staging of the opera, the one that featured a cadre of choristers waving tricolor French flags and René Pape attempting to look "menacing" in a rubber devil suit. It has never been repeated.

Its replacement is this new staging by Canadian director Des MacAnuff. Mr. McAnuff updates the opera to the 20th century and makes Goethe's medieval mystic into a mad scientist working to finish the atomic bomb, is bound to be some improvement. It is a collaboration between the Met and the English National Opera, and has already run in London to generally positive reviews.

Ms. Gheorghiu will be replaced in Faust by Russian diva-on-the-rise Marina Poplavskaya, who made an excellent impression at the Met this season in new productions of Verdi's Don Carlo as well as the lead role in La Traviata. Hopefully, Ms. Poplavskaya will be able to sing in French as well as she does in Italian.

For more about the Met's 2011-2012 plans, check out this preview of the upcoming season.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats