The rarely performed “Adriana Lecouvrer” provides the kind of
escape into gushing romantic declarations and dramatic
confrontations that fans of classics such as Puccini’s “Tosca”
and Massenet’s “Manon” should welcome.
Written in 1902 by
Francesco Cilea, the opera is full of swooning love scenes,
portentous rumblings and bustling gossipy patter. It can be
over-the-top in its prettiness and go-to state of grandeur. But
there’s a place for that, especially with a cast as strong as
the one on this DVD, recorded in 2010 at the Royal Opera House.
And Mark Elder leads the orchestra and chorus in a lavish
Set in 1730, the story hinges on a fairly
simple love triangle, with Maurizio, count of Saxony, at its
center. He is devoted to the title character, an opera singer
(both are based on historical figures). Adriana returns his
feelings, even when he lies about his identity and maintains an
alliance with a former lover to pursue his political ambitions.
Maurizio’s other woman turns out to be the powerful Princess de
Bouillon — and she isn’t giving up easily.
characters and misunderstandings complicate things and the women
only gradually realize that each is the other’s rival. A bouquet
of violets turns out to have fatal significance.
McVicar’s fusty production amplifies the work’s dated excesses,
with sets by Charles Edwards and costumes by Brigitte
Reiffenstuel placing the action on a stage-within-a-stage full
of brocade, candelabras, elaborate wigs and voluminous gowns.
Angela Gheorghiu can seem to get more attention for
cancellations and diva antics than for her abilities. She
certainly has the temperament to play Adriana, who can present
herself as humble and sweet but, in a scene where she takes the
stage, is nothing if not intense.
Gheorghiu is not the
most naturalistic actor and close-ups don’t serve her as well as
some of her contemporaries. Still, this recording provides a
reminder of how secure and uniquely attractive her singing can
be. Her soprano glides effortlessly, its top still silvery, over
the oft-excerpted arias “Io son l’umile ancella” and “Poveri
fiori.” There’s a real core even in much of her soft singing,
and the recording flatters her lower register.
Maurizio, Jonas Kaufmann has the ideal chiaroscuro sound to
portray both poet and warrior. It’s great to hear his robust
tenor at full force over moderate accompaniment (as compared
with his recent Wagner outings at the Met) as he boasts of his
military conquests. When his singing is this focused and he
doesn’t resort to crooning, he calls to mind Plácido Domingo.
Olga Borodina makes for an imperious princess and as
Michonnet, the stage manager who never confesses to loving
Adriana in a more than fatherly way, veteran baritone Alessandro
Corbelli employs luster and dignity.
“Adriana” may not
quite live up to the more famous operas of its time, but this
recording serves as a reminder of its particular charms.