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Giordano: Andrea Chenier / Schirmer, Plowright, Sandoval, Fantini [blu-ray]

Giordano / Hendricks / Prague Philharmonic Choir
Release Date: 10/25/2011 
Label:  C Major   Catalog #: 708004  
Composer:  Umberto Giordano
Performer:  Rosalind PlowrightNorma FantiniTania KrossHector Sandoval,   ... 
Conductor:  Ulf Schirmer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bregenz Festival ChorusWiener SymphonikerPrague Philharmonic Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 2 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

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Also available on standard DVD

Umberto Giordano’s verismo masterpiece Andrea Chénier is set against the background of the horrors of the French Revolution and tells the tragic tale of a doomed love affair involving the historical figure of the poet André Chénier, who initially champions the Revolution but later turns against its leaders, before ending up on the scaffold. A vast sculpture rising up out of Lake Constance depicts one of the leaders of the Revolution, Marat, lying dead in his bath, creating a spectacular
Read more set of a kind possible only on the lakeside stage in Bregenz. “A gigantic set with iconic qualities – a masterly achievement.” (Die Welt) “The Mexican tenor Héctor Sandoval was brilliant in the title role.” (ORF) “The singing was magnificent, the effects hit home. Bregenz has done it again.” (RP Online)

Umberto Giordano ANDREA CHÉNIER
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

Andrea Chénier – Héctor Sandoval
Carlo Gérard – Scott Hendricks
Maddalena di Coigny – Norma Fantini
Bersi – Tania Kross
La Contessa di Coigny / Madelon – Rosalind Plowright

Prague Philharmonic Chorus
Bregenz Festival Chorus
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Ulf Schirmer, conductor

Keith Warner, stage director
David Fielding, set designer
Constance Hoffman, costume designer
Lynne Page, choreographer
Davy Cunningham, lighting designer

Recorded live from the Bregenz Festival, July 2011

Picture format: 1080p High Definition
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean
Running time: 130 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (BD 25)

R E V I E W:

After study at the Naples Conservatory Umberto Giordano submitted his one act opera Marina in the competition famously won by Mascagni with Cavalleria Rusticana. His efforts were not in vain as the sponsoring publishers commissioned him to write a full-length opera. The result was Mala vita (1892), a full-blown verismo work of the kind then in fashion. His next opera was a failure and he lost his publisher’s sponsorship. His future as a composer looked bleak. He had, however, maintained the friendship of Mascagni who helped him get Andrea Chénier staged. It proved an overwhelming success at it premiere and was followed by his other notable opera, Fedora in 1898 which is also in verismo style.

The circumstances and betrayals of the French Revolution and The Terror form the setting . The story opens in the opulent Chateau of La Contessa di Coigny as tensions between the aristocracy and the Third Estate build. Gérard, a valet of the Countess, who secretly loves the aristocratic daughter of the house, Maddalena, leaves his post to join the Revolutionaries. The poet Andrea Chénier declines to offer his services to the nobility and is admired by Maddalena. Act 2 takes place in Paris in 1794. Gérard has made a name for himself during the Revolution as has Chénier who originally joined the revolutionary side but has fallen out of favour. Maddalena, pursued as an aristocrat, seeks refuge with Chénier and the two swear eternal love. They are betrayed and Chénier is arrested and accused of supporting the aristocracy. Despite having discovered the love between Chénier and Maddalena, Gérard is prepared to let Chénier escape the danger of The Terror in exchange for Maddalena’s love. She is prepared to comply, at which point Gérard, moved by her self-sacrifice tries, in vain, to obtain Chénier’s release, but he is condemned to death. In the prison of St. Lazare the final act that Gérard can render his friends is to bribe the jailer to let Maddalena take the place of a mother condemned to death so that the lovers can die together.

The Bregenz Festival first hit the headlines at its inception in 1948. This small Austrian town on Lake Constance now boasts three venues, but it is the biggest that gives it definition. The open-air setting, on the lake, literally, with its fantastic backdrop of mountains, the stage, or stages, is built on pontoons. The audience numbers nearly seven thousand and whilst binoculars seem de rigueur, others think telescopes more appropriate. The sound is amplified and the singers have microphones attached near their faces.

Given the venue and size of the audience, big is the name of the game. Recent productions have included an Il Trovatore set in what could have passed for an ICI factory on Teeside when that company was a bell-weather for UK industry, to a recent Aida where swimming ability seemed a casting necessity for soloists and chorus. Those were operas that, like a previous Tosca, had audiences clamouring for tickets. Whether this verismo mediocrity will do the same only time will tell. David Fielding’s sets are vertiginous with stages set on several levels joined by staircases of builder’s scaffolding. The dominant features are a huge image of the head and upper torso of the eponymous hero. One of the stages is set on a book of his poems. Constance Hoffman’s costumes are in period with the aristocratic ladies having massive hairstyles. Director, Keith Warner, keeps the story concise except for some rather unnecessary gymnastic displays on gyroscopic swings during manufactured interludes. He justifies the Grim Reaper and his scythe at the start and conclusion, but I will not spoil that bit of theatre.

The Bregenz Festival does not draw premier league singers. With amplification one can only hazard a guess at the true vocal quality. Acting however is all-important. Not many can match Rosalind Plowright as the Contessa di Coigny and still with a more than adequate voice. The Gérard of Scott Hendricks starts rather dryly but rapidly finds some vocal sap. He acts the part superbly, particularly as he decides, despite loving Madddalena himself, to seek to rescue her for Chénier (CH.29). As the eponymous hero, Héctor Sandaval sings strongly and makes an effort at sensitive characterisation. Together with the Maddalena of Norma Fantini he makes the final duet a moment of true pathos (CHs.34-35), with sensitive lighting adding to the overall effect. Norma Fantini is a convincing Maddalena and manages the demands of La mamma morte well as she regrets the death of her mother and the manner of it (CH.26). As Bersi, Maddalena’s mulatta maid, Tania Kross is none too steady. Peter Bronder is a weird-looking Un Incredible.

The Prague Philharmonic Chorus and Bregenz Festival Chorus, along with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Ulf Schirmer are good value. Video Director, Felix Breisach, catches the colours of the lighting and challenges of the scenes and the movement along and among the scaffolding with welcome sensitivity. In case you watched last year’s Aida on terrestrial TV transmission in the UK, yes the water has its uses both in drowning aristocrats and for the arrival of a boat bringing the judge for Chénier’s trial (CH.27).

-- Robert J Farr, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano
Performer:  Rosalind Plowright (Soprano), Norma Fantini (Soprano), Tania Kross (Mezzo Soprano),
Hector Sandoval (Tenor), Scott Hendricks (Baritone)
Conductor:  Ulf Schirmer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bregenz Festival Chorus,  Wiener Symphoniker,  Prague Philharmonic Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Italy 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Poor June 2, 2012 By Anthony V. (Norrsitown, PA) See All My Reviews "Just a terrible performance of one of the great operas-- from singers to staging and whats with jumping in the water Total waste of money" Report Abuse
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