Glorious singing from three well-matched leads characterised this otherwise somewhat uninspiring presentation of Umberto Giordano’s verismo potboiler Andrea Chénier.
Andrea Chénier holds a special place in the heart of Man in Chair, being the first opera I ever saw live. This way way way back in 1988 when Ken Mackenzie Forbes’ Victoria State Opera offered four student tickets for $52. I snapped up this offer and have never looked back!
But back to the Met. I would have to say that there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the audience going in to the theatre last night, but once we realised the standard of singing that was to come we could not get enough. The playbill program notes comment that “Andrea Chénier relies on engrossing performances from its lead performers for success” and this was certainly the case here.
Aria after aria, duet after duet, Marcello Alvarez, Patricia Racette and Željko Lučić filled the cavernous auditorium with rich, romantic, passionate sound. Enhancing this wondrous singing was equally superb music coming from the pit, where guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda presided over the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
Alvarez hit the first home run with act one’s “Un dì all’azzurro spazio,” the first of many pieces to bring the house down. Alvarez and Racette soared in their act two love duet, followed up at the conclusion by “Vicino a te” as the lovers prepare, Aida-style, to face death together. In act three, Racette broke hearts with “La mamma morta” and Lučić gave an impassioned “Nemico della patria.”
Nicola Joël’s production, created back in 1996 for Pavarotti, is suitably epic yet noticeably static compared with more recent stagecraft. Hubert Monsloup’s design uses a rectangular pro arch of columns and panels that stays in place for all four acts whether it suits the scene or not. Monsloup’s costume feature excellent military detail, but the preponderance of gold makes the ensemble characters a little hard to distinguish.
Chorus preparation by Donald Palumbo is reliably excellent, with controlled piano singing a lovely highlight.
Andrea Chénier was reviewed 7.30pm 8 April 2014 at Metropolitan Opera House, where it plays one more performance this season on 12 April 2014.