Calendar
ALL SHOWS ARE PERFORMED AT THE MONTE CARLO OPERA except those in November
November 2023
Thursday
02 November
20 H

Choral concert
Subscription Galas
Subscription Soirées
Messa da requiem
Verdi
Sunday
19 November
19 H (by invitation from the Palais)

Staged Concert
Caruso à Monaco
Wednesday
22 November
20 H

Opera
Subscription Galas
Don Carlo
Verdi
Friday
24 November
20 H

Opera
Subscription Soirées
Don Carlo
Verdi
Sunday
26 November
15 H

Opera
Subscription Matinées
Don Carlo
Verdi
December 2023
Saturday
16 December
20 H (Gala)

Musical
Subscription Galas
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Sunday
17 December
15 H

Musical
Subscription Matinées
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Tuesday
19 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Wednesday
20 December
20 H

Musical
Subscription Soirées
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Thursday
21 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Friday
22 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Friday
22 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Saturday
23 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Saturday
23 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Monday
25 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Tuesday
26 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Tuesday
26 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Wednesday
27 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Wednesday
27 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Friday
29 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Friday
29 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Saturday
30 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Saturday
30 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Sunday
31 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Sunday
31 December
20 H (masquerade night)

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
January 2024
Wednesday
24 January
19 H (Gala)

Opera
Subscription Galas
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Haendel
Friday
26 January
19 H

Opera
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Haendel
Sunday
28 January
15 H

Opera
Subscription Matinées
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Haendel
Monday
29 January
20 H

Choral concert
Subscription Galas
Ein deutsches Requiem
Brahms
Tuesday
30 January
19 H

Opera
Subscription Soirées
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Haendel
February 2024
Friday
23 February
20 H (Gala)

Opera
Subscription Galas
Cavalleria rusticana & Gianni Schicchi
Mascagni & Puccini
Saturday
24 February
20 H

Aria Recital
Subscription Soirées
Rolando Villazón
Sunday
25 February
15 H

Opera
Subscription Matinées
Cavalleria rusticana & Gianni Schicchi
Mascagni & Puccini
Tuesday
27 February
20 H

Opera
Subscription Soirées
Cavalleria rusticana & Gianni Schicchi
Mascagni & Puccini
Thursday
29 February
20 H

Opera
Cavalleria rusticana & Gianni Schicchi
Mascagni & Puccini
March 2024
Saturday
23 March
17 H

Recital
Cecilia Bartoli & Lang Lang
Sunday
24 March
15 H

Opera
Subscription Matinées
La Fille du régiment
Donizetti
Tuesday
26 March
20 H (Gala)

Opera
Subscription Galas
La Fille du régiment
Donizetti
Thursday
28 March
20 H

Opera
Subscription Soirées
La Fille du régiment
Donizetti
Saturday
30 March
20 H

Opera
La Fille du régiment
Donizetti
April 2024
Sunday
07 April
19 H

Staged Concert
Subscription Galas
Their Master’s Voice
Malkovich - Bartoli
Giordano Andrea
Chénier
19, 21, 23, 25 February 2023 Opera
Conductor Marco Armiliato
Director Pier Francesco Maestrini

Giordano Andrea Chénier

Opera
Sunday 19 February 2023 - 15 h
Tuesday 21 February 2023 - 20 h (Gala)
Thursday 23 February 2023 - 20 h
Saturday 25 February 2023 - 20 h
Opéra de Monte-Carlo

Historical drama in 4 tableaux
Music by Umberto Giordano (1867-1948) 
Libretto by Luigi Illica
Premiere: Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 28 March 1896

New production, in co-production with the Teatro Comunale Bologna

Is it not surprising that the opera which most viscerally describes the violence and excesses of the Revolution in France was written by an Italian composer –Umberto Giordano–, an Italian librettist –the famous Luigi Illica–, and premiered at La Scala in Milan? One of the jewels of the Giovane Scuola, Andrea Chénier is much more than a series of memorable arias and duets given to its three principal soloists. It is also a choral-like work exhibiting a multitude of small characters, sketched with a lively stroke and remarkable accuracy, creating, and at equal heights, a poignant story of the love until death of the young Maddalena di Coigny for the poet André Chénier. At the same time, this opera skilfully describes the tilting of the Old World towards uncertain times and the destructive impulses which inhabit the human being as soon as the social norms of his environment begin to disappear.

Videos

3 ©OMC - Cassette Vidéo
Production team
Conductor | Marco Armiliato
Director | Pier Francesco Maestrini
Sets and videos creations | Nicolás Boni
Costumes | Stefania Scaraggi
Lights | Daniele Naldi
Choreography and assistant director | Silvia Giordano
Choirmaster | Stefano Visconti
Videos creations | Matias Otalora
Costume assistant | Paolo Vitale
Lighting assistant | Alberto Rossini
Répétiteur | Kira Parfeevets
Cast
Andrea Chénier | Martin Muehle
Carlo Gérard | Claudio Sgura
Maddalena De Coigny | Maria Agresta
Bersi | Fleur Barron
La Comtesse de Coigny | Annunziata Vestri
Madelon | Manuela Custer
Roucher | Alessandro Spina
Fléville | Andrew Moore
Fouquier-Tinville | Giovanni Furlanetto
Mathieu | Fabrice Alibert
Un Incroyable | Reinaldo Macias
L'abbé | David Astorga
Dumas/Schmidt | Eugenio Di Lieto
Majordomo | Matthew Thistleton
MONTE CARLO OPERA CHOIR

MONTE CARLO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

PRINCESS GRACE ACADEMY - BALLETS DE MONTE-CARLO
Artists' biographies
Artistic and technical teams

Les maîtres d'œuvre

Direction musicale
Marco Armiliato

Mise en scène
Pier Francesco Maestrini

Décors et conception vidéo
Nicolás Boni

Conception vidéo
Matias Otalora

Costumes
Stefania Scaraggi

Lumières
Daniele Naldi

Chorégraphie et assistante à la mise en scène
Silvia Giordano

Chef de chœur
Stefano Visconti

Chef de chant
Kira Parfeevets

Assistant aux costumes
Paolo Vitale

Assistant à la lumière
Alberto Cannoni

SOLISTES

Andrea Chénier
Jonas Kaufmann

Carlo Gérard
Claudio Sgura

Maddalena de Coigny
Maria Agresta

Bersi
Fleur Barron

La Comtesse de Coigny
Annunziata Vestri

Madelon
Manuela Custer

Roucher
Alessandro Spina

Fléville
Andrew Moore

Fouquier-Tinville
Giovanni Furlanetto

Mathieu
Fabrice Alibert

Un incroyable
Reinaldo Macias

L'Abbé
David Astorga

Dumas/Schmidt
Eugenio di Lieto

Un Majordome
Matthew Thistleton

Harpe solo
Sophia Steckeler

DANSEURS DE L’ACADEMIE DE DANSE PRINCESSE GRACE
Sienna Going
Paloma Livellara Vidart
Filippo Mambelli
Santos Martinho Lima
Muu Sakamoto
Juliette Windey

FIGURANTS
Amandine Aïchoun
Peter Bateson
Delphine Beaulieu
Mélissa Calatayud
Céline Capacci
Ludivine Colle Denane
Morena Di Vico
Moa Ferreira
Guillaume Funel
Emilie Jedwab-Wroclawski
Anne Le Forestier
Nicolas Leroy
Stephane Martin
Kevin Pastore
Sophie Payan
Laure Rivaud-Pearce
Dmitri Tsourikov
Artem Ustinov
Yuliya Ustinov
Nicolas Vitale

FIGURANTS ENFANTS
Marcel Blanchard
Daniel Gunalons
Matthieu Lecerf

CHŒUR DE L’OPÉRA DE MONTE-CARLO

Chef de chœur
Stefano Visconti

Consultant pour l’organisation musicale & assistant chef de chœur
Aurelio Scotto

Régisseuse du chœur & bibliothécaire
Colette Audat

Sopranos I
Galia BAKALOV
Antonella CESARIO
Chiara IAIA
ALESSANDRA MEOZZI*
Giovanna MINNITI
Felicity MURPHY
Paola VIARA-VALLE

Sopranos II
Rossella ANTONACCI
LUISA MARIA BERTOLI*
Marialucia CARUSO
Valérie MARRET
Letizia PIANIGIANI
Laura Maria ROMO CONTRERAS

Mezzo-sopranos
Teresa BRAMWELL-DAVIES
ERICA CORTESE*
Géraldine MELAC
Suma MELLANO
Federica SPATOLA

Altos
Maria-Elisabetta DE GIORGI
Catia PIZZI
Janeta SAPOUNDJIEVA
Paola SCALTRITI
Rosa TORTORA
SIMONA TOTELECAN*

Ténors I
Walter BARBARIA
Lorenzo CALTAGIRONE
Domenico CAPPUCCIO
Vincenzo DI NOCERA
Thierry DIMEO
Nicolo LA FARCIOLA
MANFREDO MENEGHETTI*

Ténors II
Gianni COSSU
Pasquale FERRARO
BENOÎT GUNALONS*
Fabio MARZI
Adolfo SCOTTO DI LUZIO
Salvatore TAIELLO

Barytons
Fabio BONAVITA
Jean-François Baron*
Vincenzo CRISTOFOLI
Daniele DEL BUE
Luca VIANELLO

Basses
Andrea ALBERTOLLI
Przemyslaw BARANEK
Paolo MARCHINI
Edgardo RINALDI
Matthew THISTLETON
GIUSEPPE ZEMA*

*choristes supplémentaires pour les représentations d'Andréa Chénier

ORCHESTRE PHILHARMONIQUE DE MONTE-CARLO

Directeur artistique et musical
KAZUKI YAMADA

Premiers violons
DAVID LEFÈVRE
LIZA KEROB
SIBYLLE DUCHESNE 
ILYOUNG CHAE
NICOLE CURAU DUPUIS 
GABRIEL MILITO
SORIN TURC
MITCHELL HUANG 
THIERRY BAUTZ
ZHANG ZHANG
ISABELLE JOSSO
MORGAN BODINAUD 
MILENA LEGOURSKA
JAE-EUN LEE
ADELA URCAN
DIANA MYKHALEVYCH

Seconds violons
PÉTER SZÜTS
NICOLAS DELCLAUD 
CAMILLE AMERIGUIAN-MUSCO
FRÉDÉRIC GHEORGHIU 
NICOLAS SLUSZNIS 
ALEXANDRE GUERCHOVITCH
GIAN BATTISTA ERMACORA 
LAETITIA ABRAHAM 
KATALIN SZÜTS-LUKÁCS 
ERIC THOREUX
RALUCA HOOD-MARINESCU 
ANDRIY OSTAPCHUK
Sofija Radic
Anne-Cécile Lecaille* 

Altos
FRANÇOIS MÉREAUX 
FEDERICO ANDRES HOOD 
FRANÇOIS DUCHESNE 
CHARLES LOCKIE 
RICHARD CHAUVEL 
MIREILLE WOJCIECHOWSKI
SOFIA TIMOFEEVA 
TRISTAN DELY
RAPHAËL CHAZAL
YING XIONG
THOMAS BOUZY 
RUGGERO MASTROLORENZI
Patricia Gagnon* 

Violoncelles
THIERRY AMADI 
DELPHINE PERRONE 
ALEXANDRE FOUGEROUX 
FLORENCE RIQUET 
BRUNO POSADAS 
THOMAS DUCLOY 
PATRICK BAUTZ 
FLORENCE LEBLOND 
THIBAULT LEROY 
CAROLINE ROELAND

Contrebasses
MATIAS BENSMANA 
TARIK BAHOUS
THIERRY VERA
MARIANA VOUYTCHEVA 
JENNY BOULANGER 
SYLVAIN RASTOUL
ÉRIC CHAPELLE
DORIAN MARCEL

Flûtes
ANNE MAUGUE 
RAPHAËLLE TRUCHOT BARRAYA
DELPHINE HUEBER
Véronique Charpentron* 

Piccolo
MALCY GOUGET

Hautbois
MATTHIEU BLOCH
MATTHIEU PETITJEAN 
MARTIN LEFÈVRE

Cor anglais
JEAN-MARC JOURDIN

Clarinettes
MARIE-B. BARRIÈRE-BILOTE 
VÉRONIQUE AUDARD

Petite clarinette
DIANA SAMPAIO

Clarinette basse
PASCAL AGOGUÉ

Bassons
FRANCK LAVOGEZ 
ARTHUR MENRATH 
MICHEL MUGOT

Contrebasson 
FRÉDÉRIC CHASLINE

Cors
PATRICK PEIGNIER 
ANDREA CESARI 
DIDIER FAVRE 
BERTRAND RAQUET 
LAURENT BETH 
DAVID PAUVERT

Trompettes 
MATTHIAS PERSSON 
GÉRALD ROLLAND 
SAMUEL TUPIN 
RÉMY LABARTHE

Trombones
JEAN-YVES MONIER 
GILLES GONNEAU 
LUDOVIC MILHIET

Tuba
FLORIAN WIELGOSIK

Timbales
JULIEN BOURGEOIS

Percussions 
MATHIEU DRAUX
Antoine Lardeau 
Benoit Pierron* 
Nicolas Castagnola* (tambour en coulisse) 

Harpe
SOPHIA STECKELER (harpe sur scène) 
Elise Veyres* 

*musiciens supplémentaires pour les représentations d'Andréa Chénier

PERSONNEL DE SCÈNE

Régie

Directeur de scène
Xavier Laforge 

Régisseur principal
Elisabetta Acella

Régisseur de scène
Jérôme Chabreyrie

Régisseur lumières
Nicolas Payan

Régisseur sur-titrage
Sarah Caussé

Régisseur enfants
Laëtitia Estiot

Technique

Directeur technique
Vincent Payen

Responsable du bureau d'études
Nicola Schmid

Chef machiniste
PASCAL Grenier
Olivier Kinoo

Pupitreurs machinistes
Yann Moreau
Franck Satizelle

Techniciens de plateau
Tom Ayrault
Laurent Barcelo
Tom Cressi
Morgan Dubouil
Jean-Philippe Faraut
Axel Gbedo
Schama Imbert
David M'bappé
Khalid Negraoui
Thomas Negrevergne

Techniciens de plateau
Jean-François Faraut
Frédéric Laugier

Chef électricien
Benoît Vigan

Chef électricien adjoint
Gaël Le Maux

Techniciens lumière
Nicolas Alcaraz
Thomas Hec
Céline Luciani
Laurent Renaux

Pupitreurs
Dylan Castori
Grégory Masse 

Responsable audio/vidéo
Benjamin Grunler 

Technicien audio/vidéo
Felipe Manrique 

Chef accessoiriste
Audrey Moravec 

Accessoiristes
Landry Basile
Roland Biren
Heathcliff Bonnet
Franck Escobar 

Chef costumière-habilleuse
Eliane Mezzanotte 

Chef costumière-habilleuse adjointe
Emilie Bouneau 

Sous-chef costumière-habilleuse adjointe
Véronique Tetu 

Habilleurs
Roxane Avello
Christian Calviera
Nadine Cimbolini
Lili Fortin
Edwige Galli
Julie Jacquet
Karinne Martin
Stéphanie Putegnat
Florence Rinaldino
Lauriane Senet 

Chef perruquière-maquilleuse
Déborah Nelson 

Chef perruquière-maquilleuse adjointe
Alicia Bovis 

Perruquiers
Jean-Pierre Gallina
Karl David Gianfreda
Corinne Paulé
Marilyn Rieul 

Maquilleurs
Margot Jourdan
Sophie Kilian
Rémy Rebaudo
Francine Richard

Synopsis

Synopsis

 

Act I

The Château of Countess di Coigny, near Paris, Winter 1789.

An army of valets and servants are busy preparing for a dazzling reception on the terrace of the Winter Garden. Gérard, a servant, enters carrying a blue sofa. Since the day he was caught reading Rousseau and the Encyclopédistes he is never left in peace and he complains ironically to the sofa (“Compiacente a’ colloqui del cicisbeo”). His elderly father enters from the garden carrying a heavy piece of furniture. Gérard is infuriated on seeing this (“Son sessant’anni, o vecchio, che tu servi!”), but his revolutionary ideas do not stop him from loving Maddalena di Coigny, the Countess’s daughter. Maddalena enters at this point, accompanied by her mother and her loyal maid, the mulatto Bersi. The Countess is worried that the reception will not be ready in time, while Maddalena watches the sunset under the admiring gaze of Gérard (“Il giorno già s’insera lentamente!”).

The guests arrive, among them the poet Andrea Chénier. The Abbé bears bad news from Paris: the king is weak and badly counseled by Necker, the Third Estate has been established and the statue of Henry IV has been defiled. Anxiety is mounting, but Pietro Fléville quickly enlivens the atmosphere (“Passiamo la sera allegramente”). He invites everyone to admire the pastorale he was written. Shepherds and shepherdesses recite the Arcadian verses he has written, which are greeted with mockery. Maddalena then asks Chénier to improvise the verses. At first reluctant, the poet launches into a tirade, declaring in succession his love for his country, his revolt at poverty and his admiration for Maddalena, whose humanity had not escaped him (“Un dì all’azzurro spazio”). Gérard is carried away by Fléville’s performance. Leading a group of beggars he interrupts a gavotte. After a moment of unease the Countess orders that the dance strike up again.

                              

Act II

Paris, June 1794. In the foreground, an altar dedicated to Marat, the Hottot Café and the Terrasse des Feuillants; in the background the former Cours-la-Reine and the Péronnet Bridge which crosses the Seine and leads to the Cinq-Cents Palace.

A crowd has gathered there, including Sans-Culottes, Incroyables, Merveilleuses, and Bersi, the servant of the di Coigny family. Chénier is seated alone at a table in the Hottot Café. The Sans-Culotte Mathieu and his friend Orazio Coclite are discussing revolution. Bersi notices that one of the Incroyables seems to be watching her. She questions him about Robespierre’s spies and pretends to have converted to the revolutionary cause (“Temer, perché?”); but the Incroyable is not convinced by her declaration of faith and decides to continue spying on her. The real aim of the Incroyable is to deliver the counter-revolutionary Chénier up to justice. Roucher, who has just arrived at the café, tries in vain to persuade his friend to run away and save himself. But Chénier refuses: he has faith in his destiny and the love promised to him. A mysterious woman has been sending him passionate letters, signed Hope, and he wants to find her (“Credo a una possanza arcana”). Roucher studies the letters. The elegant handwriting and the refined rose-scented writing paper lead him to believe that the writer is a Merveilleuse who is trying to trap him. Chénier is disappointed by this as he had been hoping that they had been written by Maddalena with whom he is in love. His heart heavy, he agrees to leave. The crowd hails Gérard and the procession of Représentants: Robespierre, Collot d'Herbois, Barère, Saint-Just, Couthon, David, Tallien, Fréron, Barras, Fouché, Thuriot, Carnot… Meanwhile Gérard, who is still in love with Maddalena, asks the Incroyable to find her for him. At the same time Bersi tells Chénier that the mystery woman will meet with him near the altar. Unfortunately the Incroyable overhears their conversation. Chénier gets ready to meet the mystery woman, but, as a precaution, decides to arm himself. Darkness is falling, soldiers begin their patrol and the spy hides behind a tree. Chénier meets his Hope, who reveals herself to be Maddalena disguised as a humble seamstress. Maddalena begs Chénier to help her. They confess their love for each other since the first time they met (“Eravate possente”). They vow to remain faithful until they die. The spy who has overheard everything runs off to warn Gérard who hastens to come and snatch Maddalena away from Chénier. The loyal Roucher hastily leads Maddalena away. The two rivals begin their duel and Gérard is wounded. In a noble gesture he warns Chénier that Fouquier-Tinville has added his name to the black list; he urges him to flee and to protect Maddalena. The national guards arrive, but Gérard does not reveal the name of his aggressor and pretends that it is a Girondin plot. He falls unconscious while the crowds shout death cries for the Girondins.

 

Act III

First section of the Revolutionary Tribunal. A tricolour flag proclaims: “Our country is in danger.” On the table, a large urn for citizens’ donations.

Mathieu exhorts his countrymen to make donations for the Revolution, but with little success (“Dumouriez tradittore e giacobino”). Gérard, who is still suffering from his wounds, is more persuasive (“Lacrime e sangue dà la Francia”). Women come to donate their valuables. The elderly Madelon brings along her 15 year old grandson, her only support, to enroll him into the revolutionary army. She bids him a heartrending farewell (“Son la vecchia Madelon”). In the streets people are singing the Carmagnole. The Incroyable informs Gérard that Chénier has been arrested and that Maddalena will soon probably suffer the same fate (“Donnina innamorata”). After a moment’s hesitation and not without remorse, Gérard signs the act of accusation against Chénier; he is accused of betraying the revolution. Gérard questions this ideal which has transformed him into an assassin. He might have changed masters, but he is still a slave (“Nemico della patria?”). Maddalena enters; she has learned of Chénier’s arrest. Gérard confesses his love for her (“Io l’ho voluto allora che tu piccina”) and, drunk with jealousy, tries to possess her. Maddalena at first tries to escape from him, but finally submits to him if it will save Chénier. Gérard is moved to tears. Maddalena informs her former valet that her mother has been killed, the château burned to the ground and that she owes her life to her loyal servant, Bersi. She then tells how, in a moment of ecstasy, she had a vision of an angel, incarnation of love, who led her mother to her death (“La mamma morta”). At that instant the Clerk of the Tribunal brings to Gérard the list of the accused; on it is Chénier’s name. Overcome with remorse Gérard offers his life in order to the save the poet from the bloody Revolution. But it is too late. The accused are brought in. Chénier defiantly defends himself against the accusations of having fought alongside Dumouriez and corrupting morals with his writings (“Sì, fui soldato”). Gérard confesses to having made a false accusation, but Fouquier-Tinville makes the same accusation. The poet is condemned to death and the bloodthirsty crowd triumphs. Chénier is taken away; Maddalena collapses in despair.

 

Act IV

The courtyard of Saint-Lazare prison, late at night.

Chénier is writing his last poem, a farewell to life and a vibrant tribute to poetry, “the ultimate Goddess”. He reads it out to Roucher who has come to bid farewell (“Come un bel dì di maggio”). Outside Mathieu sings the Marseillaise. Gérard enters with Maddalena. He is in despair at having failed to save Chénier. Determined to follow her lover into death Maddalena bribes the jailer Schmidt to allow her to take the place of another woman, Idia Legry, who is to be executed the next day. In a final attempt to save them, Gérard hurries away to plead with Robespierre to pardon Maddalena and Chénier. They prepare themselves calmly for death. Together they get into the wagon which will carry them to the scaffold. They are in ecstasy at being united at last. As they are carried away Gérard returns. Wracked with suffering he holds in his hand the note which Robespierre has written to him: “Even Platon banned poets from his Republic.”

 

The genesis of a masterpiece

The thwarted genesis of a masterpiece

Umberto Giordano’s fourth opera, Andrea Chénier is also his best known. None of his opera works were as successful, not even Fedora, premiered in 1898 at the Teatro Lirico in Milan with a young Enrico Caruso. Chénier owes his popularity to its magnificent title role, whose arias, beautifully written for the voice, have made it a hobbyhorse for many tenors. The baritone and soprano are not to be outdone: the characters of Gérard and Madeleine also have many seductive qualities, and they have been sung by the greatest singers.

However, the genesis of the work was not easy; the first performance, on 28 March 1896 at La Scala in Milan, could only take place after many obstacles had been overcome.

Giordano made his mark in 1888 when he took part in a composition competition organised by the Milanese publisher Edoardo Sonzogno, winning sixth prize with his first opera, Marina, a one-act work. This success earned him the commission for a more developed work in which he accentuated the verist character that had made Cavalleria rusticana, Mascagni’s opera that had won the same competition, so successful. This second opera, Mala vita (1892), made Giordano’s name known throughout Italy and as far away as Berlin and Vienna. But the third work by the young musician from Foggia, Regina Diaz (1894), met with a less enviable fate: after two performances, Sonzogno withdrew it from the programme of the Teatro Mercadante in Naples, thereby cancelling the monthly allowance of 300 lire that he had granted to his young protégé.

It was thanks to the wealthy Baron Alberto Franchetti, an influential composer of the Sonzogno house, that Giordano was able to return to the good graces of his mentor. Franchetti gave his younger son a libretto written for him by the most prominent librettist of the time, Luigi Illica: Andrea Chénier. He got Sonzogno to resume the payment of the suspended annuity, but in return he demanded that Giordano reimburse him for the 200 lire paid to Illica in exchange for the exclusive rights to the libretto. In order to get closer to the poet, who was working on Puccini’s La Bohème at the time, Giordano moved to Milan in the summer of 1895.

There were many discussions, with Giordano usually leaving his illustrious collaborator to do as he pleased. Thus Illica obtained the development of the role of the mulatto maid Bersi, to highlight the talent of his future interpreter, the French mezzo-soprano Lison Frandin (who was also a great Carmen).

On 27 January 1896, Giordano put the finishing touches to the work. But his troubles were just beginning. Amintore Galli, Sonzogno’s musical adviser and critic of the daily newspaper Il secolo, whose publisher was the owner, declared the work “impossible to perform”. Fortunately, two good fairies looked after the work: Ruggero Leoncavallo and Pietro Mascagni, who were called in by Giordano to intercede on its behalf. The aura of the triumphs of Pagliacci and Cavalleria rusticana outweighed Galli’s opinion, and Sonzogno finally agreed to include Andrea Chénier on the bill for La Scala’s next Carnival/Lent season.

For the second season in a row Sonzogno was in charge of the entire season of the famous Milanese stage, which excluded the foals of his main rival, Giulio Ricordi (among them Puccini). But he had suffered successive setbacks in presenting several French operas: Saint-Saëns’ Henri VIII was lukewarmly received, Massenet’s La Navarraise was frankly displeased and even Bizet’s Carmen was a flop, because of the performers. Neither he nor the theatre management could afford another failure.

A further setback almost postponed the premiere of Chénier until the following season: the tenor approached for the title role, Alfonso Garulli, withdrew. This time, luck turned in Giordano’s favour: he was passing in the company of Illica in the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, the sumptuous shopping arcade close to La Scala, when they came face to face with a young tenor from Ferrara, Giuseppe Borgatti - a heroic tenor who would later become the specialist in Wagnerian roles in the Milanese opera house. The production was thus saved.

The premiere went off without a hitch. Gérard’s first scene was highly applauded, and the tenor had to give an encore of his first aria, the Improvviso ("Un dì all’azzurro spazio"). Then the enthusiasm grew, thanks to Borgatti’s talent and that of the conductor, Rodolfo Ferrari, but also to the excellence of the soprano Evelina Carrera (Maddalena) and the baritone Mario Sammarco (Gérard). After the performance, Sonzogno sent this telegram to Illica: “Complete triumph of the first, third and fourth acts. The second act was also well received. Twenty encores for the artists and the composer, the librettist was asked for. Come to the second performance. In defiance of all ethics, Gallo praised the opera in Il secolo. Other, more independent critics also praised it. Even the Gazetta musicale, the organ of the rival Ricordi, greeted the success with fair play.

In a single evening Giordano had become one of the most prominent young Italian composers, alongside Leoncavallo, Mascagni and Puccini. Andrea Chénier was performed for a further eleven evenings, beaten only by Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila (twelve performances) in that season. The same enthusiasm greeted the work at its American debut on 15 November 1896 in New York. Chénier was soon performed on the main European and American stages, and its fame has never been eclipsed.

Claire Delamarche

From poet to opera hero

From historical figure to opera hero

The real André Chénier (real name André Marie de Chénier) was born in Constantinople on 30 October 1762 to a Greek mother and a French diplomat. He was 3 years old when his family returned to France, and he spent most of his childhood in Carcassonne, becoming enthusiastic about classical Greek poetry. After studying at the Collège de Navarre in Paris, in 1783 he did a brief stint in a Strasbourg regiment, soon realising that the military was not for him; the episode nevertheless inspired Illica’s “Si, fui soldato” [“Yes, I was a soldier”].

Later, Chénier joined his family in Paris, frequenting the salons and making friends with Lavoisier, Lesueur, Dorat, Lebrun-Pindare, Parmy, and a little later with the painter David. Coming from an aristocratic family, he was also invited to castles such as the one described in the first part of the opera.

Chénier spent two years in London, from 1788 to 1790, as secretary to the French ambassador. On his return to Paris he was struck by the chaos there. He began to violently criticise the excesses of Robespierre, Jacques-Pierre Brissot, Jean-Paul Marat and others, both by contributing to the Journal de Paris, the publication of the moderates, and by holding meetings at the Café des Feuillants (the location of the second tableau in the opera). One of his most subversive poems, Ode à Charlotte Corday, was written at the height of the Terror, in which he rejoiced that, thanks to the assassination of Marat, “one less scoundrel is crawling through this mire”.

Forced into hiding several times, Chénier was eventually arrested in Passy by members of the Committee of Public Safety. During the 140 days of his imprisonment, he wrote some of his most poignant poems (in the opera, his stay at Saint-Lazare lasts only a few days, which increases its dramatic force). Just as in Illica’s Gérard, seized with remorse, appeals to Robespierre for his release, the family of the real Chénier asked the leader of the Revolution for a pardon - in vain. The poet was executed on 25 July 1794 at the age of 31, together with his faithful friend, the writer Jean-Antoine Roucher. According to legend, Roucher fell unconscious at the sight of the guillotine; Chénier then said to him: “Courage, my friend, other shores!” Chénier died three days too soon: on 9 Thermidor II (27 July 1794), Robespierre was arrested, and the very next day he fell under the blade of the executioner Sanson.

The authentic Chénier knew the de Coigny family and it was for their daughter, Aimée, whom he met in prison, that he wrote one of his most admired odes, La Jeune Captive, on the eve of his execution. Unlike Chénier, who was guillotined on the eve of the fall of Robespierre, Aimée escaped her sentence and lived until 1820.

For the purposes of the drama, Illica transformed Aimée into Maddalena and invented a love affair between the young girl and the hero. In this way he created the eternal love triangle that is the basis of so many romantic operas - and he spiced things up by inventing a rival, Gérard, for Chénier. Like so many romantic couples, separated by forces beyond their control, André and Madeleine could not realise their love in their own lives: their death was inevitable, the only thing that could bring them together. It is their love, via Gérard’s jealousy, that is the main reason for their execution.

All sorts of historical figures cross paths in the opera, from the odious Fouquier-Tinville to Robespierre himself; but the situations in which they are seen, while often plausible, are not truthful.

Illica based his libretto on numerous sources, including comments by Henri de Latouche (the first editor of Chénier’s poems in 1819), Arsène Houssaye’s Galerie du XVIIIe siècle, Jules Barbier’s drama André Chénier (1849), Joseph Méry’s novel André Chénier (1856) and the Goncourt brothers’ Histoire de la société française pendant la Révolution (1854). The libretto is full of contemporary details, particularly concerning the lifestyle of the French aristocracy, which he does not hesitate to mock in passing. Illica also drew on authentic poems by Chénier. The Hymn to Justice is the source of the Improvviso in Act I, but also of Gérard’s recriminations against the aristocracy. As for the last poem composed by Chénier in the opera, “Come un bel dì di Maggio”, it paraphrases one of the last poems of the historical figure, actually written in the Saint-Lazare prison: Comme un dernier rayon, where Chénier denounces the bloody excesses of the Terror.

Claire Delamarche

The score

The influence of verism

Andrea Chénier is largely indebted to the current of musical verismo, the Italian counterpart of French “realism”. Realism had developed after the 1848 revolution, through the paintings of Corot, Courbet and Millet and the novels of Zola, which illustrated ordinary people in their daily occupations; it then found its way into opera, notably with Charpentier’s Louise (completed in 1896, premiered in 1900). In Italy, this trend found an equivalent in literary verismo, whose main representative is the Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga. His works feature rural characters whose personal crises are resolved through violence and heightened passions.

One of Verga’s short stories is Cavalleria rusticana, published in 1880 in the collection Life in the Fields, from which Mascagni wrote the opera of the same name, the starting point for musical verismo in 1890. The explosive success of Cavalleria rusticana had reverberated through much of the Italian opera production of the early 1890s. Catalani’s Wally, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Franchetti’s Cristoforo Colombo, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and La Bohème, and Smareglia’s Nozze istriane can all, in various ways and in particular styles, claim some aspects of its legacy. In the midst of this flood, Falstaff (1893), the old Verdi’s last opera, stands like an almost isolated island - and largely unknown to contemporary composers.

Andrea Chénier could hardly escape the wave of verismo; Illica and Giordano logically succumbed to it. This led to many attacks on the work for its dramatic emphasis and facile effects. Chénier’s success lies in the fact that he fleshes out the usual springs of verismo - the conflict of love, against a background of unbridled jealousy - with the great themes dear to Italian romantic melodrama: friendship, filial love, patriotism. Illica’s libretto offers the musician all sorts of angles of attack: historical, dramatic, sentimental, psychological. It invites a colourful music, oscillating smoothly from the intimate to the grandiose, from the rhetorical to the lyrical, from the mellow song to the terrible cry.

The score

Giordano adorns the libretto with very effective music. The orchestra concentrates on illustrating the action rather than on the psychological extension of events. It is as varied as the harmonic language and, more generally, the musical style, subject to rapid changes of atmosphere that reflect the dramatic and emotional turns of the libretto.

Of particular interest are the four great arias (Chénier’s Improvviso, Gérard’s “Nemico della patria”, Maddalena’s “La mamma morta” and Chénier’s “Come un bel dì di Maggio”), which are built on an almost unchanging pattern. They begin in a declamatory style, with a rather monotonous melody, accompanied by light chords or tremolos in the strings, which underline the text and its dramatic implications; in Chénier’s arias, this process reinforces the impression of declaimed poetry. Then, the emotion suddenly intensifies, the melody takes flight, spreading out over the whole range in vast curves while the orchestra takes shape; but even then, the text always remains perfectly intelligible, and embellishments are rare.

Like the libretto, the score is full of ‘couleur locale’ references - notably revolutionary tunes: one hears Ça ira, La Carmagnole and La Marseillaise. The general structure of each tableau is flexible, and thematic recurrences are rare (only the end of Maddalena’s aria “La mamma morta” returns at the end of the fourth tableau). Andrea Chénier appears as a kaleidoscope of contrasting atmospheres, reflecting the unexpectedness of real-life events. However, it succeeds perfectly in bringing each tableau to a peak of intensity. Not the least of these is the end of the opera: in an Italian-style “Liebestod” (love-death), the two lovers advance as if hypnotised towards their death, like Wagner’s Isolde, carried by an incandescent orchestra.

Claire Delamarche