Saturday, March 28, 2009


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 29th of March 2009 at
3 - 6.20 pm

STORYLINE with pictures and sound

CILÈA: Adriana Lecouvreur, an opera in four acts
A French story, sung in Italian. Adriana (Adrienne) is a beautiful actress, enamoured of Maurizio, the Count of Saxony, but her fear of unrequited love causes her to make a fatal mistake.
Adriana......................... Maria Guleghina
Princess........................ Olga Borodina
Maurizio........................ Plácido Domingo (aged 68)
Michonnet..................... Roberto Frontali
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Marco Armiliato

The point about this opera that appeals to me is the fact that it is based on the life of the celebrated actress Adrienne Lecouvreur (1692-1730), who performed the classical French dramas of Racine and Corneille (which I studied at Sydney University), and also the plays of Voltaire (which were not in the curriculum, though his satirical stories were). She nursed him through smallpox, which made him a marked man for life (but some of us have beards to cover imperfections like that).

The thing about this particular performance that interests me is the presence of Placido Domingo (we all love him, right?), originally intended to conduct it but actually singing the role in which he made his Metropera debut 40 years ago, reportedly with "stylistic insight and ringing top notes" (NYT); or "his sound was dry and strangulated" (said John Yohalem, though a fan of the man who had made him learn to love opera 43 years ago); or he "proves that age does not necessarily wither" (Sam Shurakawa).

My confession is that I have never studied this opera: I have merely listened to it symphonically. I bought a box of 3 discs second-hand (starring the said Domingo, with Renata Scotto, Elena Obraztsova, and Sherril Milnes, and with James Levine conducting the English Philharmonia) and the libretto is missing (cunningly replaced by an uncommunicative square of corrugated cadboard). Recently I acquired a video-tape of a production at La Scala, with no subtitles. But Karadar offers the Italian libretto free to download, but with no translation, of course.

In the snippets gathered in the Met archives (click on UNDERGROUND, above) we read some nasty comments about this one-aria opera, but Denis Forman (The Good Opera Guide) weighs it up and considers it a most underrated opera, and accordingly he awards it an Alpha.

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