Luke Blackall: Tea with the world's greatest soprano

Man About Town: Like Maria Callas, Gheorghiu has become as well-known for herself as for her roles

In an age where any pop star with half a voice, but a double-sized ego is called a "diva", it's easy to forget that there still exist those who really embody the word.

This occurred to me as I had tea with Angela Gheorghiu, perhaps the world's greatest soprano and certainly one of the few divas today in the true sense of the word. Elegantly and expensively dressed, she is every inch the star – of which she is fully aware.

She knows she is a "big artist" and is aware that her appearance in any lead role will usually mean a sell-out crowd. Her confidence, which on a lesser talent might seem arrogant, is like that of an athlete at the top of their game.

We meet so she can tell me about her new CD (out next week), A Homage to Maria Callas, one of the best-known and best-loved operatic stars of the 20th century. For many, the prospect of being compared to such a grande dame would be daunting, but to Gheorghiu? "It's OK with me, she's just a colleague".

Like Callas, Gheorghiu has become as well-known for herself as for her roles. And also like her predecessor, Gheorghiu has experienced much interest in her private life, especially her tempestuous on/off marriage to celebrated tenor Roberto Alagna (as I write this, it's back on and they're singing together in La Boheme next year).

"I have achieved so much, but with the price of my life, I give everything," she says. "I've tried to be a normal person, to have a personal life, but I cannot really have a personal life.

"And I cannot be a normal person. Everybody judges me by the way I'm speaking, singing, dressed that sort of thing. But all this because of my art."

Of course, the more modern meaning of the word "diva" can imply a demanding and stubborn nature to match her talents.

If some reports are to be believed, this is another way in which Gheorghiu might be compared to Callas. Either way, she is not letting it bother her. "Diva," she says. "I love it. What is better than that?"

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