Andrea Chenier – Giordano – Royal Opera House
Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, often regarded as the poor relation of the 19th century Verismo operas, had its first revival at the ROH since David McVicar’s 2015 controversial new production. This opera, first performed in 1896 at La Scala Milan, is a story based on the life of the French poet, Andrea Chenier, who was executed during the French revolution in 1794.
Performances of this opera require three great principals and if performed well, you are left exhausted. This coproduction with Beijing and San Francisco – whether it is in an elegant ornate room or a two stage scene broken by huge pillars – just about justifies its centre in the ROH repertoire, but it is the singing that thrills in this performance.
The Maddalena of Sondra Radvanovsky is a wonderfully artful singer. She started slowly, but by the final act of the opera, in the Saint Lazare prison, she sings the famous death duet Vicino a Te and was in full control, with great chest notes, colour and a ringing top.
The tenor Roberto Alagna sang Andrea Chenier and set his mark on the evening with his opening Act 1 aria, which was ardent, fulsome and sung with great emotion. He continued this way throughout the evening, always singing with great excitement and full voice. Whilst his tone might not be as pretty as it once was, there was always a thrill to his sound.
However, the Gerard of Dimitri Platanias really was the icing on the cake. Again he started slowly, perhaps with some lack of bite, but his final aria ‘Nemico della Patria’, was sung with thrilling powerful resonant heft and was a suitable precursor to the thrilling final duet.
The evening was conducted by Daniel Oren, at times pacey and occasionally too slow, but always with a caring watch for the singers. With the orchestra and chorus on good form, this was indeed an exciting night of opera.