Giordano Andrea Chénier
Tuesday 21 February 2023 - 20 h (Gala)
Thursday 23 February 2023 - 20 h
Saturday 25 February 2023 - 20 h
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.
MONTE CARLO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
PRINCESS GRACE ACADEMY - BALLETS DE MONTE-CARLO
Since the beginning of his career, Marco Armiliato has conducted artists such as Mirella Freni, Renata Scotto, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and more recently Anna Netrebko, Jonas Kaufmann and Angela Gheorghiu. He is a guest at the world’s most prestigious theatres and collaborates regularly with the Metropolitan Opera in New York (where he has more than 500 performances to his credit), the Opéra de Paris and the Wiener Staatsoper, which recently appointed him ‘Ehrenmitglied der Wiener Staatsoper’ (Honorary Member of the Vienna State Opera). Particularly active in the discography field, he has recorded for numerous labels, receiving the prestigious Grammy Award for his CD Verismo with Renée Fleming and Jonas Kaufmann, and the Diapason d’or for the disc Romantic Arias with Jonas Kaufmann. In 1995, he made his debut at the Vienna Staatsoper with Andrea Chénier, a title with which he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York the following year. This marked the beginning of a brilliant career that saw him regularly appear in the world’s most important theatres and festivals. Appointed Music Director of the Festival Areniano in Verona in 2022, he conducted Carmen, La traviata, Aida and Turandot, in the historic productions designed by Franco Zeffirelli. His debut at the Verona amphitheatre dates back to 2010 with Il trovatore, followed in 2012 by Aida and Tosca, in 2014 Madama Butterfly, in 2019 La traviata, in 2020 Mozart’s Requiem and the special post covid-19 concert ‘Nel cuore della Musica’, in 2021 Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci. After the success for his reading of Ernani, a new production at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, Marco Armiliato returns to the podium of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan to conduct the new production of Fedora, while upcoming engagements include invitations in Naples, Zurich, Berlin, Vienna, New York for other important titles and new productions.
Pier Francesco Maestrini
Born in Florence, Pier Francesco Maestrini began his career as stage director in 1993 in Tokyo with Il barbiere di Siviglia. Since then he has staged over 150 opera productions around the world. During the past 10 years he has directed his work towards the interaction between live stage performances and virtual decors or animated cartoons. Figuring prominently in this field are his productions of Respighi’s La campana sommersa at the Teatro Lirico of Cagliari (2016), and subsequently at the New York City Opera (DVD Naxos), his futurist version of Un ballo in maschera a co-production by the Theater Kiel and the Theatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro (2018), and his Rigoletto, a co-production by the Teatro Lirico of Cagliari (2018), the Hong Kong Opera (2019) and the Teatro Regio of Parma (2021). A similar trajectory, but with a different approach, is manifest in his productions where animated cartoons come together with the live performance, as in the Il barbiere di Siviglia, the first version of which toured Brazil with the Companhia da Ópera Brasileira (2010) with over 100 performances, while the second version, staged for the Fondazione Arena di Verona (2015), is often programmed by various theatres around the world. He is regularly invited by the major theatres and opera houses in Italy (Arena di Verona, Opera of Rome, Opera of Florence, Teatro Massimo of Palermo, Teatro Regio of Parma,…), as well as the NCPA of Beijing, the New National Theatre of Tokyo, Theatro Municipal of São Paulo, the Theatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro, the Teatro Municipal of Santiago-de-Chili, the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv or the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville. In 2022-23 he will direct Andrea Chénier at Teatro Comunale of Bologna, Manon Lescaut and Rigoletto at the Slovene National Theatre in Maribor, and Rigoletto at the Festival Verdi in Parma.
Nicolás Boni has a PhD in History of Art and graduated in Fine Arts from the National University of Rosario (Argentina). He also studied music at the same university. He has a distinguished international career, having worked for prestigious opera houses in Europe, the United States, China and Latin America. He has produced over 50 set designs including operas, ballets, zarzuelas and musicals, and has been nominated for awards by specialized critics on several occasions. His latest works include Pelléas et Mélisande and Rigoletto for the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Andrea Chénier for the Nice Opera, La forza del destino for the Teatro Municipal of Santiago de Chile and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Theater of La Zarzuela in Madrid. He also designed the sets for Madama Butterfly at the Vlaamse Opera (Antwerp) and the Slovenian National Opera (Ljubljana).
Born in Bitonto (Puglia) in 1978, she graduated in 2004 from the Bari Academy of Fine Arts with a degree in scenography and costume design. After graduating she worked as costume designer and decorator for various theatre companies, and as guest professor of theatre costumes at graduate schools. She specializes in the conservation and storage of textiles, and, with the restorer Mary Westerman Bulgarella, in temporary and permanent exhibitions of historic dress at the Lisio Foundation in Florence. She rapidly developed an extensive activity in the field of the display and conservation of costumes. She then assisted Tommas Lagatolla on an exhibition and the conservation of historic costumes at the Pinacoteca metropolitana of Bari. In 2005 she began working as costume designer for the Fondazione Lirico-Sinfonica Petruzzelli (Teatro Petruzzelli) in Bari. From 2008 to 2016 she was chief costume designer at the same establishment, and regularly designed period costumes. During the years spent at the Teatro Petruzzelli she had the opportunity of working with the greatest names of the international theatre scene, including Luca Ronconi, Maurizio Millenotti, Odette Nicoletti, Alessandro Lai and Carla Teti. Since 2017 she has been head of costumes, makeup, hairstyling and footwear at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna.
During each season since 1986 Daniele Naldi has worked on behalf of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna at the Teatro delle Celebrazioni. Since l994 he has been director of lighting and lighting designer at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, his birthplace. He began there in 1993 with The Soldier’s Tale (directed by Roberto de Simone), followed by Macbeth, The Makropulos Affair (directed by Luca Ronconi), Pelléas et Mélisande, Simon Boccanegra, Aida, I puritani (directed by Pier’Alli), Tristan und Isolde (directed by Ruth Berghaus), The Rake’s Progress (directed by Calixto Bieto) and several other works. He also designed the lighting for productions of I lombardi alla prima crociata at the Zurich Opera House, Carmen at the Terme di Caracalla in Rome and the Anfiteatro Romano in Cagliari, La Cenerentola, Jérusalem and Il turco in Italia at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Lohengrin at the Teatro Euskaldune of Bilbao, Macbeth and Adriana Lecouvreur at the Teatro Campoamor of Oviedo and the Opéra royal de Wallonie in Liège, Nabucco at the Liceu Opera of Barcelona, the Verdi trilogy (Il trovatore, Rigoletto, La traviata) and L’amico Fritz at Florence Musical May, Adina and Otello at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. He has also designed the lighting for musical comedies, and in 2012 won an award for the best lighting design with Les Misérables. He has toured with the Teatro Comunale di Bologna in Germany, Spain, Finland, China, Japan and Mexico.
Silvia Giordano trained as a dancer at the Accademia Internazionale Coreutica and the Balletto di Toscana. She continued her studies in London (The Place) and in Paris (Centre national de la danse and Ménagerie de verre). She then obtained a Master cum laude of Choreography from Codarts University of the Arts and Fontys School of Fine and Performing Arts in The Netherlands. In 2020 she won the international selection for young choreographers at the Venice Biennale. The following year she won the Theodor-Rawyler award for her project Fresh Oranges Into the Ocean, on which she based her first film, which opened the Beirut International Platform of Dance and was shown on Sky Classica HD. This work was performed at several festivals in Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Iraly and the USA. She choreographed Dafne at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Un ballo in maschera at the Guangzhou Opera House, Pinocchio at the Teatro La Fenice of Venice, the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville, Orlando furioso at the Teatro Filarmonico in Vicenza. In 2022 she presented Well, I Think of Conducting, a feminine solo inspired by the performativity of conductors, at the Bolzano Danza Festival, and her research The Emerging Sense: Practicing Intuition in the Choreographic Practice at the Codarts Research Festival in Rotterdam. She has worked as director and assistant director at the Opéra de Tours, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona, the Teatro Goldoni in Livorno, the Teatro Coccia in Novara, the Teatro del Giglio in Lucca and the Teatro Municipale di Piacenza.
Born in Livorno (Italy) in 1960, Stefano Visconti studied the piano and then choral conducting with Fosco Corti and Roberto Gabbiano, as well as orchestra conducting with Piero Bellugi and Giancarlo Andretta. He was appointed Choirmaster at Opéra de Monte-Carlo in 2007. Before this he was Choirmaster at the Teatro Goldoni, Livorno (1991-2001), Choirmaster at the Opéra-Théâtre d’Avignon (2001-2007), as well as Choirmaster at the Festival Puccini, Torre del Lago (1999-2015). From 1984 to 2001 he conducted the Guido-Monaco Polychronic Choir of Livorno which, under his direction, won several national awards (Vittorio Veneto, Arezzo and Florence competitions). In 2000 he founded the Chamber Choir of Tuscany, formed of professionals. He directed the reconstitution of the complete sacred works of Giuseppe Cambini for soloists, choir and orchestra. Since 2008 he has conducted the choirs of the Sanxay Lyrical Evenings. He is the artistic and music director of the Monte-Carlo Chamber Choir. He has made several recordings with Foné, Agora and Kikko Classic, in particular several of Mascagni’s operas (L’amico Fritz, I Rantzau, Lodoletta, Guglielmo Ratcliff, Silvano, Cavalleria rusticana, Iris and Sì). Since 2017 he has directed the coordination of the choirs for the Festival des Chorégies d’Orange.
German-Brazilian tenor Martin Muehle has been praised for his vocal prowess and dramatic intensity on stage in some of the most challenging tenor roles. The highlights of the 2022/23 season are Calaf (Turandot) at the Dutch National Opera and at Teatro Real Madrid, and Des Grieux (Manon Lescaut) at Deutsche Oper Berlin. In previous seasons, Mr. Muehle performed Don José (Carmen) at Oper Köln, Staatsoper Hamburg and at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Turiddu (Cavalleria rusticana) and Canio (Pagliacci) at the Liceu Theatre in Barcelona and Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Calaf at Oper Köln and Deutsche Oper Berlin, Pollione (Norma) at Stadttheater Bern, Don José and Radamès (Aida) at Arena di Verona, Des Grieux at the Oper Frankfurt, the title role of Otello at Staatsoper Hannover, and the title role in Andrea Chénier at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro Comunale in Modena, Teatro Regio in Parma, Teatro Municipale of Reggio di Emilia, Fondazione Teatro in Piacenza and the National Theatre in Prague. He gave his US debut at Seattle Opera as Manrico in Il trovatore. In prior seasons at Nationaltheater Mannheim, where he was in the ensemble from 2013 to 2015, he portrayed roles such as Hagenbach in La Wally, Faust in La Damnation de Faust, Gabriele Adorno in Simon Boccanegra, Calaf, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, the title role in a new production of Stiffelio and Fritz in Der ferne Klang, as well as the title role in Wagner’s Lohengrin. He is featured on the critically acclaimed Naxos recording of Francesca da Rimini in the role of Paolo il bello with the Philharmonic Orchestra Freiburg under Fabrice Bollon. Martin Muehle was born in Porto Alegre in Brazil and studied at the Musikhochschule in Lübeck, Germany.
The Italian Claudio Sgura is acclaimed all over the world as one of best performers of Verdi, Puccini and Verismo repertoires. In 2006 he was an awardee at the prestigious competition Voci Verdiane in Busseto, and one year later he made his debut at Teatro alla Scala in Milan as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly conducted by Myung Whun Chung. He was invited back at La Scala in 2011 as Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana with Daniel Harding and in 2016 as Jack Rance in La fanciulla del West with Riccardo Chailly. He has already performed in many of the world leading theaters, such as Metropolitan in New York, (where he sang Scarpia in Tosca), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, (where he sang La fanciulla del West and Tosca), Vienna State Opera (Tosca), Paris National Opera (La fanciulla del West and La Gioconda), Sydney Opera House (Jago in Otello and Tosca), New National Theatre in Tokyo (Amonasro in Aida), Teatro La Fenice in Venice (Germont in La traviata and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor), Arena di Verona (Escamillo in Carmen), just to name a few. His latest performances include Lescaut in Manon Lescaut at Monte Carlo Opera, the role debut as Michonnet in Adriana Lecouvreur at Teatro Comunale in Modena, Tosca in London, Cavalleria rusticana and Aida at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, La fanciulla del West at ABAO Bilbao, Otello at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Simon Boccanegra in Hamburg.
Maria Agresta is the Italian soprano currently most sought-after by the world’s major opera houses. Since 2011, she has been invited to sing on the most important stages worldwide, such as Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Semperoper in Dresden, Staatsoper in Berlin, Paris Opéra, Palau de les Arts in Valencia, Teatro Real in Madrid, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, Metropolitan Opera in New York, Opernhaus in Zurich, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London. Her repertoire includes the leading female roles in La Bohème, Turandot, La traviata, Il trovatore, Otello, Simon Boccanegra, Gounod’s Faust, and Norma. She has worked with the most important director such as Hugo De Ana, Franco Zeffirelli, Bob Wilson, Calixto Bieito, Gabriele Lavia, Mario Martone, Laurent Pelly, Robert Carsen, and conductors, such as Nicola Luisotti, Riccardo Chailly, Zubin Mehta, Antonio Pappano, Fabio Luisi, Daniel Barenboim, and Christian Thielemann. In 2019 she made her debut in Don Carlo at the Teatro Real, which she sang also in Venice at Teatro La Fenice. She has also made other important debuts: in the title roles of Tosca at the Paris Opéra and Teatro Real, Adriana Lecouvreur at Teatro alla Scala, and Madame Butterfly at ABAO Olbe in Bilbao. Maria Agresta has won the important prize “Franco Abbiati” in 2014: Italian national critics gave her the prize for Best Soprano and the prestigious international prize “Luigi Illica”.
Hailed as a “charismatic star” by the Boston Globe and “a knockout performer” by The Times British-Singaporean mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron is a 2018 HSBC Laureate of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and a recipient of the 2016 Jackson Prize from Tanglewood Music Festival, awarded to one outstanding young singer each year. A passionate interpreter of chamber music, concert works, and opera ranging from the baroque to the contemporary, Ms. Barron is mentored by Barbara Hannigan. Ms. Barron has been chosen by Het Concertgebouw as a “Hemelsbestormer” (Skystormer) and featured artist for the 2022-23 season. She has also been designated “Artistic Partner” of the Orquesta Sinfonica del Principado de Asturias in Oviedo for several seasons beginning in the 2022-23 season, for which she will curate and perform multiple projects each year. In 2022-23 she makes her debuts with the Orchestre de Paris, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Rome), the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (title role of Adriana Mater by Kaija Saariaho), and will record the title role of Dido and Aeneas with La Nuova Musica (Pentatone). Recent engagements include performances with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, and roles at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo (Mercédès in Carmen and Mallika in Lakmé) and at the Royal Theatre of La Monnaie in Brussels. Ms. Barron holds degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University.
Winner of several singing competitions, including Volpi, Caniglia, Rosetum, Zandonai, Spoleto, Battistini, Toti Dal Monte, Barbieri, and finalist at Operalia and Francisco Viñas, Annunziata Vestri is an artist with a wide and heterogeneous voice combined with strong acting skills. Her repertoire ranges from dramatic and verismo to buffo and character roles. She began studying singing and piano at a very young age, perfecting herself under the guidance of artists such as Renata Scotto, Regina Resnik, Daniela Dessi, Renato Bruson, and Mirella Freni. She made her debut in 2003 as Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), followed by roles such as Carmen (Carmen), Maddalena (Rigoletto), Azucena (Il trovatore), Amneris (Aida), Preziosilla (La forza del destino), Ulrica (Un ballo in maschera), Quickly (Falstaff), Rosa Mamai (L’Arlesiana), Tancredi and Isaura (Tancredi), Neris (Medea), Madelon (Andrea Chénier), in theaters such as San Carlo in Naples, Regio of Turin, Regio of Parma, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, Carlo Felice in Genoa, Massimo in Palermo, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Comunale in Bologna, Petruzzelli in Bari, Opera Lombardia, Lirico in Cagliari, Donizetti in Bergamo, Verdi in Trieste, Macerata Opera Festival, Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago, in Italy, and Marseille, Monte Carlo, Kazan, Schenkenberg, Kiel, Festival St. Margarethen (Vienna), Wexford Opera Festival, Théâtre de La Monnaie in Brussels, Tatar State Opera and The Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo, abroad. In concert, she performed Handel’s Messiah, Verdi’s and Mozart’s Requiem, Rossini’s Petite Messe solennelle, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Pergolesi’s and Dvořák’s Stabat Mater.
Born in Novara (Piedmont), she made her debut at the Teatro Regio in Turin and since then has appeared regularly in the most prestigious venues in the world, including: La Scala in Milan, Verona, Genoa, Venice, Salzburg, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Detroit, Dallas, Rome, Paris, Seville, Pesaro, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Florence, Leipzig, Vienna, in a wide repertoire ranging from baroque music (L’incoronazione di Poppea, Orlando furioso, Giustino, Griselda, Tamerlano, Didone), to Italian belcanto (Il barbiere di Siviglia, La Cenerentola, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Tancredi, L’italiana in Algeri, Anna Bolena) and to contemporary composers. She has been conducted, among others, by Fabio Biondi, Richard Bonynge, Riccardo Chailly, Myung-whun Chung, John Eliot Gardiner, Daniel Harding, Fabio Luisi, Andrea Marcon, Michele Mariotti, Diego Matheuz, Gianandrea Noseda, Evelino Pidò, Christophe Rousset and directed by Robert Carsen, Hugo De Ana, Dario Fo, Yannis Kokkos, Davide Livermore, Pierluigi Pizzi, Luca Ronconi, Graham Vick, among others. Her extensive discography includes complete operas and recitals for Opera Rara, Naïve, Warner Fonit, Virgin Classics, Dynamic, Tactus, Bongiovanni. Among her recent and future engagements: Dorilla in Tempe in Venice and Wexford; Madama Butterfly (Suzuki) in Venice, Verona, Nantes, Angers, Rennes, Genova, Nice; Lady, Be Good, Otello and La sonnambula in Naples; Andrea Chénier in Bologna; La Fille du régiment and Le nozze di Figaro in Turin.
Graduated at Conservatory “G.Verdi” in Milano, Alessandro Spina is one of the most talented basses of his generation. Trained also in stage acting, he has made his operatic debut as Lunardo in I quattro rusteghi by Wolf-Ferrari at Teatro Verdi in Pisa. He has performed in such venues as Teatro alla Scala (Milan), La Monnaie (Brussels), Monte Carlo Opera, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Florence), Teatro dell’Opera (Rome), Teatro La Fenice (Venice), Arena di Verona, Teatro di San Carlo (Naples), Teatro Regio (Parma), Teatro Comunale (Bologna), Wexford Festival and Macerata Opera Festival. He worked with such conductors as Riccardo Chailly, Daniele Gatti, Ottavio Dantone, Daniel Harding, Michele Mariotti, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Evelino Pidò, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Pinchas Steinberg, Juraj Valčuha, just to name a few. His most recent successful performances include Il trovatore (Ferrando) in Macerata, La Bohème (Colline) at Opéra royal de Wallonie (Liège), Turandot (Timur) in Pavia, Brescia, Cremona and Como, L’elisir d’amore (Dulcamara) at Teatro Coccia in Novara, La Cenerentola (Alidoro) in Brescia, Cremona, Pavia, Bergamo and Como, Adriana Lecouvreur (Prince of Bouillon) at Monte Carlo Opera. Among his recent and future engagements: Maria Stuarda (Talbot – role debut) at Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Il trovatore in Bari and in Japan, Ernani, La traviata, Adriana Lecouvreur and La Cenerentola in Milan, I masnadieri in Milan and at Savonlinna Opera Festival, La forza del destino at Chorégies d’Orange and at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, La Bohème and Tosca in Naples and Bari, Cecilia by Refice in Cagliari.
Andrew Moore returned to the International Opera Studio of the Opernhaus Zürich for their 2021/22 season. A New Jersey native, he has been seen performing in various venues around the world. His previous credits include the leading role of Odysseus in the world premiere of Die Odyssee by Leonard Evers and as the Governor in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory. Other credits include Mamma Agata in Donizetti´s Viva la Mamma! (May 2021), where Thomas Schacher from Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote: “Andrew Moore captivates with a voluminous baritone voice and realizes the ‘rock role’ of Mamma Agata – a rare counterpart to the much more common travesty of the trouser role – in all its ambiguity.” In 2020, Andrew performed as Vicar Gedge, in the Curtis Institute of Music’s Albert Herring. More of Andrew’s past credits include: Fiorello (Il barbiere di Siviglia), the title role in Gianni Schicchi, Talpa (Il tabarro), the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Rocco (Fidelio), the Tree (L’Enfant et les Sortilèges), the Keeper (The Rake’s Progress), and Adonis (Venus and Adonis). In 2018, Andrew attended the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco, where he participated in the Schwabacher Summer Concert and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. In March of 2017, Andrew was a finalist in the New Jersey State Opera Alfredo Silipigni Competition. That same year, he premiered with the New Jersey Chamber Singers as the baritone soloist in their Fauré Requiem concert and album.
Giovanni Furlanetto graduated in singing from the Conservatory of Vicenza (Italy), while he was having his first professional experiences as a theatre and circus actor. He imposed himself on the international scene by winning the “Opera Company of Philadelphia – Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition”. His prestigious career brought him to perform in the world leading theatres and festivals including Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Salzburg Festival, Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin, Paris Opéra, Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, San Francisco Opera and many others. Ideal interpreter of Mozart’s, Rossini’s and Donizetti’s repertoire, he worked with important conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Chailly, Lorin Maazel, Antonio Pappano, Daniele Gatti, Riccardo Muti, and with such stage directors as Dario Fo, Hugo de Ana and Luca Ronconi. His recent engagements have also included Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi at La Monnaie in Brussels, a new production of Don Pasquale (title role) at Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Giovanna d’Arco (Talbot) at Opéra de Metz, Don Giovanni (Leporello) at New National Theatre Tokyo, Otello with Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Zubin Mehta, Lucia di Lammermoor (Raimondo) at Semperoper Dresden, Luisa Miller (Conte di Walter) at Opéra de Lausanne, Maria Stuarda at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Lucia di Lammermoor, Rossini’s Otello, Il trovatore, Alcina and Falstaff at La Monnaie.
Fabrice Alibert studied singing and composition at the Conservatoire à rayonnement régional of Toulouse. He received a Master’s degree from the Conservatoire national supérieur musique et danse of Lyon, and went on to improve his skills in the class of Andreas Schmidt at the Munich Hochschule. In 2011-12 he attended the CNIPAL in Marseille. He also received further instruction from Alain Garichot, Rie Hamada, Didier Laclau-Barrère, Giovanni Mastino, Udo Reinemann, Ludovic Tézier and Vincent Vittoz. In 2010 he made his stage debut as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia in a production by Alain Garichot. In 2013 he joined a world-tour of West Side Story with the Solistes de Lyon-Bernard Tétu (China, Canada, Switzerland, France). He subsequently performed in Le Nozze di Figaro (Figaro), The Magic Flute (Papageno), La Cenerentola (Dandini), La Bohème (Marcello), Carmen (Escamillo, Moralès), Pelléas et Mélisande (Pelléas), L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (Clock and Cat), Les Cloches de Corneville (Henry), Roméo et Juliette (Mercutio), Il barbiere di Siviglia (Figaro) at venues including the Scène nationale of Besançon, the Opéras de Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges and Saint-Étienne, the Théâtre impérial in Compiègne, the Summum in Grenoble and the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse. In 2019 and 2020 he performed Taddeo in L’italiana in Algeri on tour with the Ensemble Matheus, under the direction of Jean-Christophe Spinosi, Benoit in La Bohème and Second Apprentice in Wozzeck at the Monte Carlo Opera. In 2021 he made his debut at the Chorégies d’Orange in L’elisir d’amore (Dulcamara), where he also sang Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem.
Born in Cuba, Reinaldo Macias grew up in the United States, where he studied at Loma Linda University in California and won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. He then moved to Europe, where he graduated from the Conservatoire de Genève and pursued further studies in Italy with Arrigo Pola and Claude Thiolas. In 1989, Reinaldo Macias made his debut at the Opernhaus Zürich as Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia. He has since become a permanent member of the company and has sung roles including, Ferrando (Così fan tutte), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), the Duke of Mantua (Rigoletto), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Fenton (Falstaff), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Roméo (Roméo et Juliette), Mitridate, Carlo di Sirval (Linda di Chamounix), Lucio Silla, Lord Percy (Anna Bolena), Oswald (Der Teufels Lustschloss), Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore), Ernesto (Don Pasquale), Alfredo (La traviata), Gounod’s Faust, Des Grieux (Manon), and Ismaele (Nabucco). Further European engagements include the Wiener Staatsoper, the Staatsoper Hamburg, the Semperoper Dresden, la Monnaie Brussels, Opéra de Nice, the Opéra de Paris, the Staatsoper Berlin, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Stadtheater Köln, the Montpellier Opéra, the Opéra national du Rhin, the Monte Carlo Opera (La traviata), the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, and the Opera de Oviedo. Recent roles include Nicias (Thaïs) at the Opera de Oviedo, Raffaele (Stiffelio) at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden (London), Dmitri (Boris Godunov), Loge (Das Rheingold) and Luka Kuzmič (From the House of the Dead) at the Opernhaus Zürich.
David Astorga was born in Costa Rica. He began his studies in history and performing arts (music) at the National University of Costa Rica and then continued at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels. He has followed several young singers programs as International Opera Academy (Gent, Belgium), Centre de Perfeccionament Plácido Domingo (Valencia, Spain), Scuola dell’Opera (Bologna) and Tenerife Opera Studio (Tenerife, Spain).
David Astorga performed main roles and concerts in opera houses around the world, like Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (Paris), Teatro Regio in Parma, Teatro Comunale in Bologna, Teatro de la Maestranza in Sevilla, Estonian National Opera in Tallinn, Teatro Sociale in Como, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Flemish Opera in Antwerp, Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica, Teatro Nacional de República Dominicana, National Arts Center of Philippines and Opera de Tenerife, where he is resident artist since 2016. David Astorga recently performed Falstaff (Fenton) in Las Palmas, Lucrezia Borgia, La traviata (Alfredo), La Tabernera del Puerto, Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Fuenteovejuna in Tenerife, Rigoletto in Busseto, L’elisir d’amore in Bologna and Cagliari, Macbeth in Nice and Antibes, Rossini’s Stabat Mater in Cagliari, Lucia di Lammermoor and La traviata in Palermo, Il turco in Italia in Monte Carlo and Vienna, Pagliacci in Macerata. David Astorga has also won several International Singing Competitions like Maria Callas (2015), Salice d’Oro (2017), Tenerife (2018).
Eugenio Di Lieto
Born in Terracina (Italy), Eugenio Di Lieto graduated in singing with honors from the Conservatoire in Perugia specializing then in baroque repertoire and in masterworks by Mozart, Rossini, Schubert and Schumann. Moreover, he attended the Accademia of Teatro alla Scala (Milan) and the Opera Studio in Tenerife, debuting in the title role of Don Pasquale returning for Lucrezia Borgia, Die Zauberflöte and Un ballo in maschera. Past engagements include: Don Giovanni and La Bohème in Rome; Rigoletto, Liebeslieder and Neue Liebeslieder in Perugia; Il barbiere di Siviglia in Pisa, Livorno, Lucca, Novara, Rome; Mozart’s Requiem in Turin and Mumbai; La Cenerentola at the Cortona Mix Festival and in Florence where he returned for Puccini’s Trittico; La Bohème in Messina and Tirana; L’Italiana in Algeri on tour in France; Die Zauberflöte on tour in Italy and in Tenerife; Don Giovanni on tour in Italy; Mozart’s Krönungsmesse and Requiem in Mumbai; Ariadne auf Naxos and Monteverdi’s Il ballo delle ingrate with Fabio Luisi in Martina Franca. Recent engagents included: La Bohème in Hyogo; I lombardi alla prima crociata in Monte Carlo; La scala di seta and Le Philtre in Bad Wildbad; Gianni Schicchi in Ancona; Le nozze di Figaro in Clermont-Ferrand and on tour in France; Don Giovanni in Bologna. Plans include: Un ballo in maschera in Tenerife; Tosca in Lecce; L’Incoronazione di Poppea and Vespro della Beata Vergine (concert and recording) with I Gemelli ensemble.
Les maîtres d'œuvre
Mise en scène
Pier Francesco Maestrini
Décors et conception vidéo
Chorégraphie et assistante à la mise en scène
Chef de chœur
Chef de chant
Assistant aux costumes
Assistant à la lumière
Maddalena de Coigny
La Comtesse de Coigny
Eugenio di Lieto
DANSEURS DE L’ACADEMIE DE DANSE PRINCESSE GRACE
Paloma Livellara Vidart
Santos Martinho Lima
Ludivine Colle Denane
Morena Di Vico
Anne Le Forestier
CHŒUR DE L’OPÉRA DE MONTE-CARLO
Chef de chœur
Consultant pour l’organisation musicale & assistant chef de chœur
Régisseuse du chœur & bibliothécaire
LUISA MARIA BERTOLI*
Laura Maria ROMO CONTRERAS
Maria-Elisabetta DE GIORGI
Vincenzo DI NOCERA
Nicolo LA FARCIOLA
Adolfo SCOTTO DI LUZIO
Daniele DEL BUE
*choristes supplémentaires pour les représentations d'Andréa Chénier
ORCHESTRE PHILHARMONIQUE DE MONTE-CARLO
Directeur artistique et musical
NICOLE CURAU DUPUIS
GIAN BATTISTA ERMACORA
FEDERICO ANDRES HOOD
RAPHAËLLE TRUCHOT BARRAYA
Nicolas Castagnola* (tambour en coulisse)
SOPHIA STECKELER (harpe sur scène)
*musiciens supplémentaires pour les représentations d'Andréa Chénier
PERSONNEL DE SCÈNE
Directeur de scène
Régisseur de scène
Responsable du bureau d'études
Techniciens de plateau
Techniciens de plateau
Chef électricien adjoint
Gaël Le Maux
Chef costumière-habilleuse adjointe
Sous-chef costumière-habilleuse adjointe
Chef perruquière-maquilleuse adjointe
Karl David Gianfreda
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.