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Adriana Lecouvreur [Blu-ray]
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L'opéra vériste de Francisco Cilea, Adriana Lecouvreur n'avait pas été donné à Covent Garden depuis 1906 ! Signée David McVicar, cette nouvelle production réunit un casting de rêve avec Angela Gheorghiu dans le rôle titre, Jonas Kaufmann dans celui de Maurizio (Comte de Saxe et amoureux d'Adriana Lecouvreur) et Olga Borodina en Princesse de Bouillon (rivale d'Adriana Lecouvreur). L'opéra de Cilea est inspiré de l'histoire vraie de la tragédienne française du XVIIIe siècle Adrienne Lecouvreur, considérée comme la plus grande comédienne de son temps et adulée par Voltaire. Adrienne Lecouvreur doit sa postérité à sa vie amoureuse et à sa mort mystérieuse par empoisonnement, sans doute commandité par sa rivale la Duchesse de Bouillon. Le timbre raffiné d'Angela Gheorghiu et ses talents incomparables d'actrice lui permettent de relever tous les défis d'un rôle envoûtant. Quant à Jonas Kaufmann, il embrase littéralement le rôle de Maurizio de par son intensité scénique et vocale !
Filmed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 22 November and 4 December 2010
"Libretto" by Arturo Colautti after the play "Adrienne Lecouvreur" by E. Scribe and E. Legouvé
Royal Opera Chorus
Chorus Director - Renato Balsadonna
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Concert Master - Peter Manning
Conductor: Mark Elder
Adriana Lecouvreur - Angela Gheorghiu
Maurizio - Jonas Kaufmann
Princesse de Bouillon - Olga Borodina
Michonnet - Alessandro Corbelli
Poisson - Iain Paton
Quinault - David Soar
Mlle Jouvenot - Janis Kelly
Mlle Dangeville - Sarah Castle
Prince de Bouillon - Maurizio Muraro
Abbé de Chazeuil - Bonaventura Bottone
Le Majordome - Abramo Ciullo
Chambermaid - Keiko Hewitt-Teale
Mlle Duclos - Barbara Rhodes
Pantalone - Kenneth Bryers
01 Opening Titles & Credits
02 Michonnet, dalla bianca!
03 Madamigella, come vi chiamerem stasera?
04 "Del sultano Amuratte..." - Io son l'umile ancella
05 Adriana! - Che c'è?
06 La dolcissima effigie sorridente
07 Or dunque, Abate?
08 Ecco il monologo
09 Dov'è dunque i biglietto di Zatima?
10 Acerba voluttà, dolve tortura
11 Principessa ... - Finalmente!
12 L'anima ho stanca, e la meta è lontana
13 Cogliam, Conte, sul fatto
14 Ma, dunque è vero?
15 Dico: che a cena l'alma sirena con noi verrà
16 E bene?- Che granchio!
17 Sia! Non risponde
18 Eh, via! Così non va
19 Voi, Principessa?
20 Sempre la prima
21 E nulla
22 Il russo Menchikoff riceve l'ordine
23 Dormi, dormi, o pastorello!
24 E'quella dama al certo!
25 Giusto cielo! che feci in tal giorno?
27 So ch'ella dorme
28 Amico mio! - Figliuola!
29 Lieta sorpresa!
30 "Una volta c'era un principe..."
31 Vediam. Cielo!
32 Poveri fiori, gemme de'prati
34 No, la mia fronte
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Adriana Lecouvreur has been sung by many divas (in some cases at the end of their careers). Somehow it must appeal to their oversized egos. It's a role that requires contrasting vocal resources, from very dramatic ousburts to moments of great delicacy and finesse. But also an oustanding personality that must fills the stage, a sort of radiance, in a word "grandeur". Gheorghiu doesn't lack ego, particularlly outside the stage. There are many stories going around, but you only need to listen to her in the interesting bonus "About Adriana" included in this release to realize that. She asked Covent Garden to stage the opera for her, after more of a century ignoring it, and she beleives to be part of a historical event. She also says SHE REALLY WAS Adriana on stage two days before. But to my eyes (and this is of course a subjective perception)she does not have that presence the role ideally asks for. She is coquettish, she is agitated (too agitated even) at almost all times, she acts girlish and she demands attention... but she is not grand. And there are vocal problems as well. Gheorghiu has a good voice, but her lyric soprano cannot fulfill all the demands of the role. She sounds underpowered in some key moments and her important and very dramatic declamation at the end of the third act lacks a force that cannot be disguised simply by hitting your chest. Don't get me wrong, hers is a comitted and very good performance that I would be glad to encounter live in any theatre. But unfortunately there are other recordings that show quite clearly what we're missing here. Particularly a Tokyo performance by Caballé in 1976 (Adriana Lecouvreur [DVD] ). I have rewiewed it already and won't repeat myself. To mention just one example, Gheorghious' Poveri fiori is very good, but Caballe's (sung in what seems a single breath) is pure magic. Gheorghiou is excellent, but Caballé gave a legendary performance, very committed dramatically as well (so much for those that keep repeating she couldn't act); hers was singing for the ages. So by all means get this Covent Garden's recording. I will be returning to it for its overall excellence, great production and recording values, and Jonas Kaufmann's brilliant performance, both vocally and dramatically. But you should also give a chance to that Tokyo performance if you want to experience how magical Adriana de Lecouvreur (and opera) can be.
Bing, not known for flexibility in dealing with singers, doubtless felt that the work with Tebaldi would be a success, but unfortunately Tebaldi's mother died and the great soprano returned to Italy. The opera was farmed out to a variety of singers, not all of whom found the music vocally congenial. San Francisco mounted it for Scotto in the seventies (a live recording exists) and Sony recorded it with the diva, Domingo and Milnes. Certainly Scotto's performance is a touchstone and it is a pity that cameras were not present to document the event.
In approaching this opera one must simply accept the work for what it is. Cilea was born in the middle of the nineteenth century and that is where the music is. Unlike Puccini who was a far more gifted and sophisticated composer, Cilea simply wasn't interested in music that had a whiff of the new trends in composition. And while he had a great success at the premiere of Adriana its continued success even in Italy has to a certain extent has been the desire of the soprano to have it mounted for her. This was the case at ROH. Gheorghiu appears to have a good relationship with the powers that be in England; it was her desire to sing Adriana and she wanted the director, David McVicar. What the lady wants..............
The powers that be were very wise when they cast Jonas Kaufmann as Maurizio. A tenor who looks good, who can act and one that can bring nuance and subtlety to the music is always going to be a plus in any performance. When he is not singing with Adriana the role of Maurizio is somewhat of an empty suit, dramatically. Cossotto or Simionato would have been the choice in the fifties and sixties for Princesse de Boullion but Borodina retains considerable power and skill for the role delivering what is required of her. Ideally the lead role is best sung by a spinto or at least a soprano who can pretend to that ideal. Gheorghiu's middle and low notes are not her glory but when the vocal line goes above the stave she is wonderful and she has retained her physical beauty and as an actress she fulfills all the requirements needed. A vocally poor performance--even a mediocre one--is not worth documenting. Boheme has suffered through dozens of indifferent performances in provincial theatres and it has hurt its reputation not a whit; it is that well constructed. Adriana is not that sturdy and ROH have provided us with a document that while not perfect, need not fear any competition. What I do fear is that when the work is revived, the company will not lavish the same attention and thereby condemming it to another hundred years of silence.
The set contains a "bonus": twenty six minutes of interviews with the diva, Kaufmann, McVicar and Sir Mark, Elder, the conductor. All do their best to convince you that the opera is a viable and worthy work. That the opera is flawed dramatically is hardly a stumbling block to popularity. Cilea provided a wealth of tunes which are repeated ad infinitum. What is lacking is that the composer was unable to make us care ultimately about the heroine, her vulnerability as well as her strengths. I admit that while I want to enjoy the opera I have never been able to give myself over to it as have the other reviewers. Cilea is a sitting duck for most critics who have savaged the work whenever it is revived. Fortunately for the opera most patrons have not read the critics and if they had it wouldn't be of any consequence. If it takes another hundred years for ROH to revive the work, Adriana will surely be reborn again for the soprano who is dying to sing the role.
Apparently the plot of Adriana Lecouvreur is complicated and too schemy for most 'men' - it is basically 'women' stuff concerning love, jealousy and intrigue.
Even so, the story is arresting for its roller-coaster emotional surges - the Act 1 re-union of the lovers to be tightly followed by the farewell-bidding to an old love; followed by the 'encounter' between the old and new loves; culmulating in a dramatic open clash between the two loves, eventually leading to the death of the real love out of vengeance by the old.
Just this short excerpted account would tell you that this is a 'women' opera, dominated by two rivalling and unyielding dames fatale.
Angela Gheorghiu virtually owns the role of Adriana - she does not have to be a big-hearted woman. This woman is jealous, suspicious, yet she is also tempestuous and genuine. Apart from one or two minor hiccups, Gheorghiu is generally fine vocally in this role, and her acting is credulous. The sets and costumes really complements her role well, and every time she appears, her Adriana is the centre of attention on stage. This is very important for this 'diva' role - for a soprano of lessor charisma and stage presence, the conviction could simply be lost.
As her arch-rival, Olga Borodina is appropriately less glamorous, but her big-toned and expressive singing enables Borodina to create a role of huge self-ego and dominating noble personna, who would not be able to admit defeat in the hands of a mere diva.
Seldom could a tenor bring home the role of Maurizio, the Count of Saxony as does Jonas Kaufmann. He not only owns the role vocally, but he is also able to convince the audience that this Count is 'the' person that women fought for to their deaths - he has the looks, the charisma, the manliness, the ardour, and the most important aspect of all, his Maurizio is a hero. A lessor tenor would have the audience missed the short but important account of Maurizio's warfare with the Cossacks. It is but a fleeting account, almost like a recitative. However, the tenor needs to carry this heroic aspect throughout the entire opera to bring home to the audience what a figure this Count of Saxony is - that he is very much a man of the world as well as a man of real attachment. This aspect is important to account for his falling for, then falling out with, the Princess Boullion.
Apart from the three major leads, there is a fourth character that is most worthy of mention - the theatre manager Michonnet portrayed by Alexandro Corbelli.
Again, Michonnet is an important figure, since it is he that harks back to Adriana and the audience the unsurmountable social gap between nobility and mere actors/actresses.
That the heroic deeds of Adriana in defying nobility and class distinction that led to her demise lends much pathos and dimension to this titlerole character and the entire work. Corbelli carries this role perfectly, vocally as well as dramatically.
This opera is not a popular one that is bound to receive many productions. I don’t expect to have many recorded ones to choose from in the near future. This recording has a first rate cast (GHheorghiu, Kaufmann, Borodina, Corbelli), a very nice, traditional and attractive staging (McVicar), and the Blu-Ray version has beautiful image captions and surround-sound. For an opera lover, this is a great opportunity to watch Cilea’s opera in a great overall production. I strongly recommend this Blu-ray, you will enjoy it.
The bonus interviews are of little value, they sound more like a sales pitch for the opera, or arguments to endorse the decision to stage this opera after more than 100 years of shelving it.