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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Adriana Lecouvreur

A new production for a New Year, with Anna Netrebko.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
All About Anna and Anita: a scene from Adriana Lecouvereur.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2019 The Metropolitan Opera.
Anna Netrebko stars in the title role of this wonderful but somewhat old-fashioned drama: the story of the lives, loves and demise (by truly bizarre means, more on that in a minute) of a famed Parisian stage actress. This glamorous new production pairs the diva with Piotr Beczala.

What is Adriana Lecouvreur?
A good way to describe this opera in two words is "Tosca's Daughter." Adriana is a four-act romantic drama in the verismo style with a title role that is coveted by big time divas. It has been recorded by Joan Sutherland and Renata Tebaldi, and now Anna Netrebko takes the challenge. It also has a great tenor part: hence the casting of Mr. Beczala.

What is the opera about?
(Oy. Do we have to do this?) In the course of four acts, the twisting, turning libretto of Adriana Lecouvreur spins a tale starring the famed Parisian actress, her obsessive love for the handsome Maurizio, and her eventual death after inhaling the scent of a bunch of...poisoned violets. (If the traditional stage cuts are taken, which is unlikely with Gianandrea Noseda in the orchestra pit, the opera's plot becomes even murkier.)

Tell me something else interesting?
Well, it's not that original. The opera is based on an 1849 play by French librettist and author Eugene Scribe, whose dramas were the backbone of the Paris Opera. Adrienne Lecouvreur was a popular play, so popular that it was adapted into three different operas by composers that I've never heard of before researching this. The Italian composer Francesco Cilea came along and set the work in 1902 at the height of the verismo craze.

What's the music like?
Francesco Cilea wrote a number of operas but stands alongside Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Alfredo Catalini and Umberto Giordano as one of the "one hit wonders" of the verismo movement. However, this one hit is very good indeed. The score of Adriana Lecouvreur is opulent, melodic and lush. It is squarely in the late Italian style popularized by Mascagni and Leoncavallo, a style later perfected by Puccini. This is a showpiece vehicle for a great soprano voice, and that is why the Met is gifting supersoprano Anna Netrebko with a new production.

Who's in it?
Anna frickin' Netrebko. Do I need to keep saying it? She stars opposite Piotr Beczala. (The two late performances in the run star Jennifer Rowley as Adriana.) The supporting cast includes Anita Rachvelishveli as the rival Princess, and star bass Ambrogio Maestri in a supporting role. Gianandra Noseda conducts.

How's the production?
This staging is by Peter Gelb's go-to director Sir David McVicar. Presumably this is a traditional staging in the Met's new mold of audience and budget-friendly productions that don't ruffle their hardcore base too much. So don't expect any fields of roses, falling anvils, giant clocks or Austrian dominatrixes. Then again, we'll know more in a few hours.

When does Adriana Lecouvreur open?
New Year's Eve, 2018 in a special gala performance.

Is there a Live in HD broadcast planned?
Yup. January 12, 2019.

Where do I get tickets?
Tickets are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save some money on service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza.

Box office hours are: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Which recordings do you recommend?

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