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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Opera's "Love Couple" Calls it Quits

Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu announce divorce.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Better days: Robert Alagna (l.) and Angela Gheorghiu as Ruggero
and Magda in Puccini's La Rondine.
Image © 2009 The Metropolitan Opera.
Tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Angela Gheorghiu, whose 1996 marriage catapulted both singers to operatic stardom, have announced their "imminent" divorce after 16 years of marriage.

The report comes from an interview the soprano gave with the news agency Mediafax.

"We have decided to divorce by mutual agreement and in perfect friendship," Ms. Gheorghiu said. (Her remarks are translated here from the French.)

The Alagna-Gheorghiu story begins at Covent Garden, when the singers met in a performance of Puccini's La bohème.  They played Rodolfo and Mìmi. She was a divorcée and he was a widower with one daughter.

 In April of 1996, they were performing the same roles at the Metropolitan Opera, marking Mr. Alagna's house debut. Ms. Gheorghiu had bowed in La bohème in 1993.

On April 27th, the singers arrived at a gala concert celebrating James Levine's 25 years at the Metropolitan Opera. They had been married that day. They celebrated by singing "Suzel, buon di" by Pietro Mascagni, (also known as the "Cherry Duet" from L'Amico Fritz) and brought down the house. The marriage was blessed by then-Mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani.

The marriage acceletated the rise to fame for both singers. They appeared together on international stages and recording a number of operas, including La Bohème, L'Elisir d'Amore, Carmen, Tosca and Gounod's Romeo et Juliette. With Mr. Alagna on EMI and Ms. Gheorghiu on Decca, their partnership rode the wave of the boom years in the classical music industry.

Their last recording together was Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz, which contains the aforementioned "Cherry Duet." Their final Met appearances together were as Ruggero and Magda in a new production of Puccini's La Rondine that premiered on New Year's Eve, 2008. It marked the return of Puccini's late opera to the Met stage after a 72-year absence.

The production is scheduled for a revival on Jan. 11 of this month. Neither singer is in the cast.

In 2009, the singers announced that they had separated. A divorce was planned but called off in December of that year. Nevertheless, Ms. Gheorghiu cancelled a planned appearance opposite Mr. Alagna in the Met's new production of Carmen, premiering on New Year's Eve, 2009. She was replaced by Elina Garança. Her last appearance at the Met was in La Traviata on April 21, 2010.

Despite their troubles, the couple appeared to have buried the hatchet in 2011, announcing a reconciliation.  In an interview at the time with the Daily Express, Ms. Gheorghiu stated that the singers were back together, and it was "stupid" for them to be apart.

With this latest news, it seems that the "love couple" is indeed a thing of opera's past. However, Mr. Alagna continues to appear at the Met, and he will sing the title role in Andrea Chenier with the Opera Orchestra of New York on January 6.

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.