Starring Angela Gheorghiu as the celebrated French actress Adriana Lecouvreur and Jonas Kaufmann as her lover Maurizio, Count of Saxony, Cilea’s verismo drama explores celebrity, romance, jealousy, and death.
The trio of sublime voices is completed by Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina as Adriana’s jealous rival, the Princess de Bouillon.
David McVicar’s hit production – the first performance of the opera at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for more than a century – presents theRead more life of the French actress as a blurring of the distinction between fantasy and reality.
The action revolves around a life-size Baroque Theatre, taking us from the bustle and colour of the first act backstage at the playhouse, to the bare final scenes as the drama reaches its fatal climax.
The blu-ray contains bonus footage featuring interviews with the principal artists, Director, Set Designer and Conductor.
R E V I E W:
CILEA Adriana Lecouvreur • Mark Elder, cond; Angela Gheorghiu (Adriana); Jonas Kaufmann (Maurizio); Olga Borodina (Princess); Alessandro Corbelli (Michonnet); Maurizio Muraro (Prince); Bonaventura Bottone (Abbé); Covent Garden Op O & Ch • DECCA 074-3460 (Blu-ray: 150:00 + bonus 23:00) Live: London 2010
Adriana Lecouvreur, composed by Francesco Cilea, is an Italian potboiler of an opera, contemporary with other drama-intensive verismo works such as Pagliacci and Cavalleria rusticana. But unlike those two warhorses, Adriana teeters precariously on the fringes of the standard operatic repertoire. Its music cannot compare with that of Puccini, another Italian contemporary, and the story, hampered by damaging cuts at the behest of the composer, is in some places almost unintelligible. (Even so, it is said that sopranos take forever to die, and Cilea’s last-act death scene, although not the fault of the production, seems to go on forever.) The work requires a suitably perfumed period setting, a strong orchestra, and a stellar cast of singer/actors to come alive and do justice to its several strengths. Such is the production we have here. Filmed at London’s Royal Opera House in 2010, it is the first production of the work at that venue since 1906.
Adriana Lecouvreur was a real historical figure, a highly celebrated actress in early Parisian theatrical life, so who else to perform the role of this prima diva of the early 18th century than the prima diva of the early 21st century? Angela Gheorghiu understands divadom as few others do. The strong-willed soprano has racked up nearly as many cancelations, missed rehearsals, and banishments from opera houses as the late Maria Callas, the queen of all divas. Gheorghiu understands a subtle actress such as Adriana would sting with the silk whip, rather than bludgeon with the mace. She plays the lead role with understated control, toning down some of the frankly overwrought excesses of both book and score. Unlike several of her predecessors in the role, Gheorghiu is still singing with undiminished vocal powers; if she has lost a note or two from her top range she disguises it well, and here she sings with all the consummate beauty and skill of her best performances. Of course, the two famous showpiece arias from the work are hers, the act I “Io son l’umile ancella” and the act IV aria to the poisoned flowers “Poveri fiori.” Gheorghiu is wonderful in both.
Joining the soprano as her politically ambitious lover Maurizio is German tenor par excellence Jonas Kaufmann. Kaufmann validated his verismo chops last year in a quite brilliant recital disc I reviewed in Fanfare 35:1. Here he displays the same rich, darkly burnished vocal quality and the same consummate use of dynamic range that separates him from more pedestrian tenors. In the act IV death scene with Adriana his performance is especially touching. As the Princess de Bouillon, mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina, something of a prima donna herself, no longer has the svelte figure that once made her one of the world’s most seductive and charming Delilahs and Carmens. Her plush voice and velvety Russian midrange, however, are still very much intact and on display here. She sings the Princess’s act II aria “Acerba volutta, dolce tortura” in fine style; although her acting is a bit stiff at times, she makes little concession to the intimacy of the close-up cameras. Noted character actor/baritone Alessandro Corbelli no longer really has enough voice for the role of the stage manager Michonnet, but he manages to get through the role more than competently with the aid of his finely nuanced acting skills. The minor roles are all performed solidly as well.
Settings and costumes in this Royal Opera House production are elegant and traditional although they may be more evocative of 19th-century London than 18th-century Paris. Gheorghiu rarely loses an opportunity to show off her rather impressive cleavage, and she does so here in a providentially low-cut act IV nightgown. The Covent Garden Orchestra, a world-class organization rivaled by only a handful of other opera pit bands, is in fine form under conductor Mark Elder. Cilea’s score is often less than subtle but the orchestra brings out all the Italianate colors while providing brisk but comfortable accompaniment to the singers. The chorus sings well, although it is very busy in the opening number of act I and there are far too many quickly changed camera shots of their dubious antics; the sequence leaves me almost dizzy. There is also some gratuitous act I groping of chorus girls by the Prince and Abbé, which, while possibly true to the times, is rather tasteless. There is an interesting 23-minute bonus feature of interviews with director, conductor, and several of the lead singers. Subtitles are available in English, French, German, and Spanish.
So where does this release reside in the rather meager pantheon of Adriana recordings? The audio-only sets have much the better of it in quantity and quality; I won’t claim Gheorghiu in the title role tops Tebaldi, Scotto, or even Olivero, but she just might. I certainly prefer Kaufmann to a typically overwrought tenor such as Franco Corelli, and many others singing Maurizio as well. On video, this Decca Blu-ray is far superior visually and audibly to anything we have had before and becomes a clear first choice. This is a very good opera production despite my minor reservations and deserves an enthusiastic recommendation.
Adriana Lecouvreurby Francesco Cilèa Performer:
Olga Borodina (Mezzo Soprano),
Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor),
Angela Gheorghiu (Soprano),
Alessandro Corbelli (Baritone),
Bonaventura Bottone (Tenor),
Maurizio Muraro (Bass)
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Period: Romantic Written: 1902; Italy
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
a very good Adriana LecouvreurDecember 5, 2012By Renato L Baserga (Ardmore, PA)See All My Reviews"an excellent blue-ray, well done, without idiot changes, well sung. Gheorghiu is a superb Adriana, always dedicated to her muse and always devoted to Jonas Kaufnann, who is a perfect antagonict. He comes our more clearly as a double lover, not quire devoted to Adriana as she is to him. Only at the end, when she is dying, he finally commits himself to Adriana. Till the, the power of Olga Borodina (so fat, though. or was it photography?) kept him to her side, an interesting Maurizio. Best of all, though is Alesandro Corbelli, a magnificent stage man, he and Adriana seem to be the only human beings in a dispkay of egotism and desire. It is a very good DVD, and I recommend it wholeheartedly."Report Abuse