The Stage, 21 January 2015
by George Hall
Giordano: Andrea Chenier, London, Royal Opera House, 20. Januar 2015
Andrea Chenier
Jonas Kaufmann, the world’s most widely admired operatic tenor, returns to the Covent Garden stage in what is the Royal Opera’s first production of Giordano’s historical melodrama since 1985. It’s a piece many audience members adore, even if the critics are often less enthusiastic. The show might be considered a vehicle for him were it not for the presence of the other two leading roles of Eva-Maria Westbroek as Maddalena and Zeljko Lucic as Gerard - considerable artists both.

Giordano’s best known score rarely rises to the level of his contemporary Puccini, but it has its set piece arias for the principals, all of whom seize their opportunities. Kaufmann is a considered actor and his singing is never less than thoroughly accomplished and tasteful - not something one can take for granted in a star verismo part. He sings particularly beautifully in the last act, where Westbroek sounds a little tired. Lucic remains bullish throughout.

David McVicar’s staging will delight traditionalists in its realism and opulence. Robert Jones’s sets are intricate and grand, Jenny Tiramani’s costumes finely achieved. This is the kind of staging Royal Opera audiences long for but rarely get - it tells the story skilfully without attempting anything profound or revolutionary. But that, too, is its limitation.

Conductor Antonio Pappano has the measure of the score and steers it throughout its more inspired and less inspired moments with the same easy assurance. In secondary roles, Rosalind Plowright’s Countess, Elena Zilio’s Madelon and Denyce Graves’ Bersi all make appreciable marks. If the evening fails to generate consistent heat, the opera is more to blame than the performers.

Verdict: Giordano’s French revolutionary epic returns to Covent Garden in a traditional production with star tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the lead

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