Label: MediaPro Music
What’s remarkable about Angela Gheorghiu’s “Guardian Angel” is that despite Gheorghiu’s thick Romanian accent and signature breathy voice, she still manages to connect deeply with some classic American songs, make them her own, and give them joy (“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”). Gheorghiu’s phrasing in English is sometimes odd and not every song on the album is cut out for the happy-go-lucky delivery almost every piece receives, but the holidays are about happiness, and this album has happiness in spades. The album is a good mix of American Christmas favorites, classic European carols, and a selection in Romanian that really gives the album heart. Fans of Gheorghiu’s operatic career will appreciate her vocalism on “Petit Papa Noel,” the album’s high point. Gheorghiu’s English diction is not always clear, but her connection with the music reaches far beyond any misshapen vowel, “s”-sound that turns into a stolen breath, or pitchy attack or release. Orchestrations (played with adequate enthusiasm by the Romanian National Radio Orchestra) range from bubbly to subdued to almost rockabilly (Who wants to hear “O Holy Night” played on a drum set?), and the chorus backing many of the tracks is perfectly good. In one track (“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”), Gheorghiu duets with pop singer Loredana who sounds like Romania’s answer to Cyndi Lauper, though the blend of her and Gheorghiu’s voices doesn’t always click. “Guardian Angel.” the song for which the album is named, is given a nice interpretation, but like other classical singers that attempt to toe the line between opera and crossover, this unnatural style doesn’t always seem like a natural fit for Gheorghiu. However, surprisingly gutsy German diction during “O Tannenbaum” makes you wonder what could have happened if Gheorghiu had sought out a German role or two. The only truly misplaced track is a baffling rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with full chorus and orchestrations that sound like the theme song for a children’s television show. Incongruous with the rest of her work of the album, Gheorghiu cannot break from a strange, operatic delivery of the piece. Neither the French nor English performances of “O Divine Redeemer” make much case for the piece, which is unfortunate because the two renditions of it account for over ¼ of the time of the recording. All in all, though, Gheorghiu does a great job in this album. She takes some calculated risks, sings with abandon and joy, and, possibly the most important characteristic of any diva’s Christmas album, remains very much herself.
What are “December Divas”? Find out here.