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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Andrea Chénier

The Met revives Giordano's chilling tale of the French Revolution.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Patricia Racette as Maddalena de Coigny in Andrea Chenier.
Photo © 2014 Metropolitan Opera, courtesy Press Department.
Marcelo Álvarez and Patricia Racette star in Umberto Giordano's potboiler set against the bloody backdrop of the French Revolution. It chronicles an ill-fated love-triangle between an idealistic poet, an aristocratic lady, and Gérard (Zeljko Luçic) a member of the Revolutionary Tribunal. If it's done right, Chénier can be an unforgettable theatrical experience as the lovers climb to the guillotine in a kind of Italian Liebestod.

Giordano is considered a verismo composer, from the same era of Italian opera that produced Mascagni, Leoncavallo and Puccini. But unlike those composers, his operas are larger-than-life costume dramas with a strong dash of historical romance. Andrea Chénier remains his most popular work, and with good reason. It is a beloved, old-school opera, noted for its challenging tenor arias and the soprano show-stopper "La mamma morta" ("They killed my mother") featured in the Oscar-winning Tom Hanks vehicle Philadelphia.

This revival of the Met's trusty 1996 Nicholas Joël production of Andrea Chénier is not on a par with La bohéme or Aida in terms of theatrical extravagance. But it works: showing the rapid decline of French society as the Revolution's ideals degenerate into the neck-chopping frenzy of the Reign of Terror that followed.

Andrea Chénier opens March 24, 2014.

Recording Recommendations:
Rome Opera House Orchestra and Chorus cond. Gabriele Santini (EMI, 1963)
Chénier: Franco Corelli
Maddalena: Antonietta Stella
Gerard: Mario Sereni
There are a number of Chénier recordings in the catalogue, with entries from each of the Three Tenors (Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras.) For sheer chest-thumping ability in the title role, look to the classic Franco Corelli set on EMI, with Antonietta Stella as his leading lady and Gabriele Santini providing real Italian accompaniment in the pit.

Tickets for Andrea Chénier are available at MetOperaFamily.Org, by calling (212) 362-6000, or at the box office starting August 11.

Tickets for Andrea Chénier are available at MetOperaFamily.Org, by calling (212) 362-6000, or at the box office starting August 11.

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