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Soprano Anna Netrebko joins the ranks of Renata Tebaldi, Montserrat Caballé, and Renata Scotto, taking on—for the first time at the Met—the title role of the real-life French actress who dazzled 18th-century audiences with her on-and offstage passion. The soprano is joined by tenor Piotr Beczała as Adriana’s lover, Maurizio. The principal cast also features mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili and baritone Ambrogio Maestri. Gianandrea Noseda conducts. Sir David McVicar’s staging, which sets the action in a working replica of a Baroque theater, premiered at the Royal Opera House in London, where the Guardian praised the “elegant production, sumptuously designed … The spectacle guarantees a good night out.”
SUNG IN ITALIAN with MET TITLES IN ENGLISH
ESTIMATED RUN TIME: 3 HRS 33 MINS with two intermissions
World Premiere: Teatro Lirico, Milan, 1902. Adriana Lecouvreur occupies a unique place in the repertory: largely dismissed by experts from its premiere to the present day yet cherished by its fans for the dramatic possibilities provided by the lead roles. The opera is a deft combination of frank emotionalism and flowing lyricism, with pseudo-historical spectacle. Based on a play by Eugène Scribe, the story was inspired by the real-life intrigues of famed actress Adrienne Lecouvreur and the legendary soldier—and lover—Maurice of Saxony. Cilea’s operatic retelling quickly became a favorite of charismatic soloists. The title character in particular is a quintessential diva role.
Francesco Cilea (1866–1950) belonged to the generation of Italian composers that produced such greats as Puccini and Mascagni. Adriana Lecouvreur was his only big success with the public, though his opera L’Arlesiana also played for many years and is occasionally revived. Arturo Colautti (1851–1914), who transformed a play by French dramatist Eugène Scribe (1791–1861) into a libretto, was a poet, novelist, and creator of comedies.
Adriana Lecouvreur unfolds in Paris in 1730. The setting reflects a nostalgia for the Rococo era that swept over Europe and the Americas around the turn of the last century when Cilea was composing, evident in other operas (for instance, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut) and in architecture.
The score of Adriana Lecouvreur relies on elegance and a deft weaving of themes rather than symphonic grandeur. There are nods to a neo-Rococo style, especially in Act III’s dance sequences, but generally the score serves to showcase the singers. Lyricism abounds in the solos, particularly in the tenor’s “La dolcissima effigie” in Act I and Adriana’s Act I aria “Io son l’umile ancella,” whose arching line and theme of the singer as “the humble handmaiden of the creative genius” have made it a soprano anthem of sorts.