‘Andrea Chenier’ at the Vienna State Opera

A great tenor, soprano and baritone are required for a successful performance of this work. The Vienna State Opera provided the goods.

June 1, 2013 23:16
1 minute read.
Umberto Giordano’s ‘Andrea Chenier.’

Andrea Chenier opera 370. (photo credit: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Poehn)


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Umberto Giordano’s opera, Andre Chenier is set during the French Revolution. It is a love story based on the life of a real historical character, the poet Andrea Chenier. He was initially an ardent supporter of the revolution but subsequently became a victim of the Reign of Terror and was guillotined.

The main female protagonist, the young aristocrat Maddalena, falls passionately in love with Chenier. She eventually takes the place of another woman so that she could be guillotined with her lover. The other main character, Carlo Gérard, once a servant in the service of the aristocratic household of Maddalena’s mother, becomes a revolutionary ringleader. He has always been hopelessly in love with Maddalena and falsely denounced the poet to the Revolutionary Tribunal.

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A great tenor, soprano and baritone are required for a successful performance of this work. The Vienna State Opera provided the goods. Argentinean tenor Jose Cura proved to be a passionate Andre Chenier although his voice has lost some of its sheen and he lacks the Italianate tenor qualities one associates with the great exponents of the role, which included Maria Del Monaco and Franco Corelli.

Viennese soprano Martine Serafin successfully sung the hapless role of Maddalena. She began somewhat tentatively but rapidly settled in and her voice demonstrated the soaring lyricism which is an essential component of the role.

Italian Marco Vratogna’s rich and commanding baritone was the real standout. In his gripping Act 3 monologue, he realizes that the ideals for which he fought have turned into lies and he decries the excesses of the revolution. His voice reflected the pathos, irony and moment of truth.

This aria was one of the real highlights of the evening. Italian conductor Marco Armiliato led the Orchestra of the State Opera in a most elegant reading of the score and provided all the necessary support for the singers.

Otto Schenk’s production with its conventional staging is somewhat dated and uninteresting.

I recalled David Fielding’s spectacular settings of this opera last year at Austria’s Bregenz festival. The Vienna State Opera deserves something better.

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