Concert in Seoul - review

Alagna, Gheorghiu Highlight Tournament

.c The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - The 1990 World Cup gave birth to the Three Tenors. While those operatic elder statesmen will perform again before the final later this month in Japan, the artistic highlight of this year's tournament was Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu.

The husband-and-wife tenor and soprano performed Wednesday in what was touted as Seoul's ``concert of the year'' at the Concert Hall of the Seoul Arts Center and proved to be every bit opera's glamour couple.

Alagna was tieless in a white dinner jacket, white vest and pink handkerchief, with Gheorghiu in a sky-blue-and-pink gown with matching cape.

After the obligatory overture (``Luisa Miller''), the program began unsteadily with ``Gia nella notte densa,'' the love duet that closes the first act of Verdi's ``Otello.''

Desdemona sits well with Gheorghiu's voice - she can float soft notes and has a tremendous upper register that can soar. Alagna, who has a lyric to lyric-spinto tenor, sounded strained pushing up to a dramatic tenor part, the forte notes losing some of their beauty.

He plans to sing Radames in ``Aida'' and his first ``Otello'' at Saint-Etienne, France, in 2004, but should think hard before taking on roles that helped wreck the voices of other notable lyric tenors.

The rest of the night was far more satisfying. He sang effortlessly and excitingly in ``Quando le sere al placido,'' from Verdi's ``Luisa Miller.'' Gheorghiu gave the most thrilling solo turn of the night in ``Pace, pace mio dio'' from Verdi's ``La Forza del Destino.'' Opera
houses have searched more than a decade for a great Leonore - she's the one.

Closing the first half, the two sang ``Parigi o cara,'' the third act duet from Verdi's ``La Traviata,'' which they performed in March at the Metropolitan Opera pension fund concert.

The second half included the ``Ah talor del mio pensiero'' duet from Donizetti's ``Lucia del Lammermoor,'' Gheorghiu's ``Un bel di'' from Puccini's ``Madama Butterfly,'' Alagna's ``Un di allazzurro spezio'' from Giordano's ``Andrea Chenier'' and the ``Vogliatemi bene'' duet
from the second act of ``Butterfly.''

During the duets, Alagna wrapped his arm around his wife, whom he married at the Met in April 1996. They made goo-goo eyes at each other during their fourth and final encore, and gave each other a big kiss - provoking swoons from the audience behind the stage.

During the final bows, Alagna kicked his foot in the air and smiled, which the crowd took as encouragement for South Korea's soccer team, which plays Portugal on Friday with a chance to advance to the second round for the first time.