"Adriana Lecouvreur" by Cilea
Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann, Olga Borodina, Alessandro Corbelli, Mark Elder - The Royal Opera House Chorus and Orchestra, Mark Elder conducting
I was pleasantly surprised by this production of the London Royal Opera House. Not that I had any comparisons - I never saw it live and I only vaguely remember another "Adriana Lecouvreur" televised many years ago which at that time did not compel me to rush out and get a recording.
The action takes place in Paris around 1730 and the sets, costumes, wigs, and furnishings transmit a realistic picture of this era. The composer, Francesco Cilea, was a contemporary of Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo and several others who composed in the verismo style and of all his works Adriana is his most successful composition (although it seems to be neglected if one looks at opera schedules of the world's leading opera houses). The music has charm, is romantic, sentimental and easy to listen to.
Angela Gheorghiu in the title role is superb. It takes a diva to convincingly depict a diva and Gheorghiu is tailor fit for Adriana. She has charisma, is glamorous, passionate, sentimental and her singing perfectly expresses all these varied emotions. Adriana's love interest Maurizio, sung by German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, does not disappoint either. His is a somewhat ambiguous role - Maurizio, count of Saxony, seems to be genuinely in love with Adriana, but at the same time he also engages in a relationship with the Princess de Bouillon (sung and acted very well by Olga Borodina) in order to further his political ambitions.
Kaufmann has it all - the voice, the looks, the charm. Alessandro Corbelli, as Michonnet, the Comedie Francaise's stage manager, is sweetly sentimental and deeply touching in his love and adoration for Adriana. While Adriana, Maurizio and the Princess are bigger than life - each of them vehemently pursuing their own interests - he quietly suffers from his unrequited love for Adrina and with his humanity and humility gives a certain balance to the ensemble.
Part of the action takes place on the stage of the Comedie Francaisewhere Adriana works as an actress - so we have a stage within a stage action. Accordingly, since French audiences of that era always insisted on at least one ballet scene within an opera, there is a whimsical ballet "The Judgment of Paris " included in act 3.