Andrea Chenier “in New York – March / April 2014 – 1

The Metropolitan Opera’s revival of Andrea Chénier offers a night of pleasure in the sheer musicality of the performance, and in the way the music-making gets to the heart of the score.

Chénier is Umberto Giordano’s proto-verismo opera built around the life and death of the poet of the title, who in real life was sympathetic to the republican ideals of the French Revolution but was executed nonetheless, during the waning days of the Terror, for his political satires. In the piece, Chénier is first shown as anti-clerical and anti-aristocracy, then the victim of the kind of convoluted love triangle that only works in opera.

The tragedy is that Chénier and his beloved, Maddalena, go to the guillotine together, their path engineered by their friend, Carlo Gérard, who wants Maddalena for himself. Giordano’s composing is more sympathetic to the characters, and ultimately more affecting, than in the likes of Puccini’s Tosca.

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