Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Andrea Chénier 

Radio Broadcast of Saturday, April 12, 1 P.M.

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At a party in a salon in the Château Coigny, the Countess (Michaela Martens) greets her guests
© Beth Bergman 2014

The 2013–14 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

Andrea Chénier

Music by Umberto Giordano
Libretto by Luigi Illica

THE CAST  (in order of vocal appearance)
Major-domo baritone, KYLE PFORTMILLER
Carlo Gérard baritone, ŽELJKO LUČIĆ
Maddalena soprano, PATRICIA RACETTE
Countess mezzo, MARGARET LATTIMORE
Bersi mezzo, JENNIFER JOHNSON CANO
Fléville baritone, JOHN MOORE
Abbé tenor, DENNIS PETERSEN
Andrea Chénier ten., MARCELO ÁLVAREZ
Mathieu bass, ROBERT POMAKOV
L'Incredibile tenor, TONY STEVENSON
Roucher baritone, DWAYNE CROFT
Madelon mezzo, OLESYA PETROVA
Dumas bass-bar., JAMES COURTNEY
Fouquier-Tinville bass, JEFFREY WELLS
Schmidt bass-bar., DAVID CRAWFORD

Conducted by GIANANDREA NOSEDA

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Nicolas Joël
Set and costume designer: Hubert Monloup
Lighting designer: Duane Schuler
Stage director: Peter McClintock
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Joan Dornemann,
    Dennis Giauque, Jane Klaviter, Steven
    Eldredge, J. David Jackson
Assistant stage director:
    Gregory Anthony Fortner
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir
Prompter: Jane Klaviter
Production a gift of
    The Annenberg Foundation

THE SCENES  Timings (ET)
    (France, 1789–94) 
ACT I1:00–1:36
    June 1789, Château de Coigny 
ACT II2:05–2:34
    Summer, 1794, Paris, along the
    Cours-la-Reine
 
ACT III3:01–
    July 24, 1794, a courtroom 
ACT IV–4:09
    July 25, 1794, St. Lazare prison 

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park

For more information on the broadcasts,
    please visit www.operainfo.org.

Send quiz questions to:
    Metropolitan Opera Quiz
    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org.

This performance is also being broadcast
    live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SiriusXM
    channel 74.

THE STORY 

ACT I. Spring, 1789, at the Château de Coigny near Paris. Gérard, servant to the Countess de Coigny, mocks the aristocracy and their manners. Observing his father struggle with a piece of furniture, Gérard laments the suffering of all servants under their arrogant masters ("Son sessant'anni"). Maddalena, the Countess's daughter, appears and Gérard realizes how much he loves her. Busy with preparations for a soirée that evening, the Countess scolds Maddalena for not yet being dressed. Maddalena complains to her servant, Bersi, about the discomfort of the current fashions and then runs out to change. Among the guests to arrive is Fléville, a novelist, who has brought with him the rising poet Andrea Chénier. After the Abbé relates the latest depressing news from Paris, Fléville enlivens the party with a pastorale he has written for the occasion. Maddalena then teases a reluctant Chénier into improvising a poem ("Un dì all'azzurro spazio"). Chénier scandalizes the guests with his criticism of the indifference of the clergy and the aristocracy to the suffering of the impoverished. The guests' gavotte is interrupted by Gérard, who brings in a group of starving peasants. The Countess orders Gérard out along with the rabble. The guests are then invited to return to the gavotte, but they depart instead, and the Countess is left alone.

ACT II. Spring, 1794, along the Cours-la-Reine in Paris. The Revolution has begun, and the Reign of Terror is in full force. To fend off the Incredibile, a spy, Bersi pretends to be a daughter of the Revolution ("Temer? Perchè?"). The Incredibile is not deceived and notices that Chénier is waiting for someone in the Café Hottot. Chénier is joined by his friend Roucher, who has brought a passport so that Chénier may leave the country safely. Chénier says his destiny is to remain to find the love he has never had and to discover who has been writing him anonymous letters ("Credo a una possanza arcana"). A procession of dignitaries led by Gérard interrupts their conversation. The Incredibile takes Gérard aside to ask about the woman he is looking for. Gérard describes Maddalena to him. Meanwhile, Bersi asks Chénier to wait at the café for someone who wants to meet him. Maddalena appears and reveals to Chénier that it was she who wrote the letters. They pledge to love each other until death ("Ora soave"). The Incredibile, having seen Chénier and Maddalena together, brings Gérard to the scene. Gérard is wounded as Chénier defends Maddalena. Gérard, however, recognizes Chénier and sends him away, asking him to protect Maddalena. When the gathering crowd asks who wounded Gérard, he answers that his assailant was unknown.

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In the Hall of the Revolutionary Tribunal, Chénier (Heppner) defends himself against accusations of treason
© Beth Bergman 2014

ACT III. July 24, 1794, in the courtroom of the Revolutionary Tribunal. Mathieu, a revolutionary, is unsuccessfully urging the crowd to donate to the cause. Gérard, recovered from his wound, makes an impassioned plea for the motherland. Madelon, an old woman who has already lost her son and a grandson in the war, offers her last grandson as a soldier ("Son la vecchia Madelon"). As the crowd disperses, the Incredibile appears. If Gérard wants to have Maddalena, the Incredibile insists, he must first arrest her lover, Chénier. As Gérard writes the accusation, he is filled with remorse at the bloodshed he has caused in his rise to power. He concedes that his new master is passion ("Nemico della patria"). No sooner does he hand Chénier's indictment to the court clerk than Maddalena appears. Gérard admits that he has laid a trap for her and that he loves her. Maddalena offers herself to Gérard if he will save Chénier. She has been a fugitive, her mother was killed in the Revolution and their home was burned ("La mamma morta"). Touched by her love for Chénier, Gérard promises to try to save him. The Tribunal convenes with an unruly mob in attendance. Chénier pleads for his life ("Sì, fui soldato") and Gérard admits to the judges that the accusation he wrote was false. Nevertheless, Chénier is sentenced to death and taken away.

ACT IV. July 25, 1794, in the ruins of Paris's St. Lazare prison. Chénier reads a final poem ("Come un bel dì di maggio") to his friend Roucher, who then bids him a final farewell. Gérard and Maddalena are met by the jailer, Schmidt, whom Maddalena bribes with some jewels to allow her to take the place of another young woman sentenced to death. Gérard leaves to once again plead Chénier's case with Robespierre. Maddalena tells Chénier she is there to die with him. As the day dawns, they share one final moment together ("Vicino a te") before being taken to the guillotine. 

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Chénier and Carlo Gérard (Heppner, Mark Delavan)
© Beth Bergman 2014

THE BACKGROUND 

Umberto Giordano (1867-1948) submitted his first opera, Marina, to the Sonzogno competition won by Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. Impressed by the young composer's talent, the publisher commissioned Mala Vita, first heard in 1892 at Rome's Teatro Argentina. But it was Andrea Chénier that won lasting fame for Giordano. The score was written in 1894-95 in Milan, where the composer made his home in a ground-floor storage room for tombstones in order to be near his librettist, Luigi Illica. 

Nothing in La Bohème, which Illica wrote simultaneously with Chénier, approaches the Bohemianism of Giordano's life during these two years; yet despite his meager allowance of 300 lire a month from Sonzogno and a violent quarrel with his librettist, he never doubted his opera's potential. A gift for melody is evident throughout the work, even if the composer places theatrical effect ahead of musical substance - a priority even more evident in his subsequent operas, including Fedora, Siberia and Madame Sans-Gêne. (This last had its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1915 with Geraldine Farrar, Giovanni Martinelli and Pasquale Amato.)

André Chénier, a French poet who lived from 1762 to 1794, found the ideals of the French Revolution inspiring on paper but appalling in action. When he denounced the bloodthirsty Jacobins in a series of articles, he was imprisoned in St. Lazare; there he wrote the verses that have secured his place in French literature. A fellow prisoner, Mlle. de Coigny, Duchesse de Fleury, to whom Chénier dedicated his poem "La Jeune Captive," served as the model for Maddalena in Giordano's opera. The real Mlle. de Coigny escaped the guillotine.

The world premiere of Andrea Chénier took place at La Scala on March 28, 1896, with Evelina Carrera, Giuseppe Borgatti and Mario Sammarco; the opera was a triumph in a season of fiascos. Eight months later, on November 13, the U.S. first saw Chénier at New York's Academy of Music, as presented by Mapleson's New Imperial Opera Company. The Metropolitan Opera House premiere, on March 7, 1921, enlisted Claudia Muzio, Beniamino Gigli, Giuseppe Danise and conductor Roberto Moranzoni. The current Met production, staged by Nicolas Joël, was unveiled on April 6, 1996, with James Levine pacing Luciano Pavarotti, Aprile Millo and Juan Pons as Chénier, Maddalena di Coigny and Carlo Gérard. 

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Maddalena and Chénier (Urmana, Heppner)
© Beth Bergman 2014

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR 

There is little truly useful English-language literature available on Umberto Giordano. Burton D. Fisher's paperback on Andrea Chénier in the Opera Journeys mini-guide series handles the composer's best-known opera succinctly. Julian Budden's entry on Giordano in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera is also excellent.

Andrea Chénier has many fine performances available on CD. James Levine paces a hot-blooded reading from 1978 with Plácido Domingo, Renata Scotto and Sherrill Milnes, all then in prime vocal estate (RCA); Riccardo Chailly's Chénier for Decca (recorded in several sessions between 1982 and 1984) is somewhat cooler in affect, despite the presence of Luciano Pavarotti in one of his signature roles. EMI's live La Scala set from 1955 fields Mario Del Monaco, rightly considered the supreme Chénier of his generation, and Maria Callas, suprisingly effective in a role that was not central to her onstage repertory. (Callas's studio performance of "La mamma morta" became one of the most popular classical-radio selections of 1993 when it was used on the soundtrack of the Jonathan Demme film Philadelphia.) Renata Tebaldi, who was a Maddalena for all seasons, is caught in brilliant form in a 1960 Vienna performance available on several labels; the soprano and her leading men, Franco Corelli and Ettore Bastianini, perform so vividly that the generally iffy "live" sound becomes only a minor annoyance (Melodram, etc.) Corelli's studio performance (EMI), while a shade less intense than his Vienna outing, still offers ample proof of his unequalled Chénier credentials. Lorenzo Molajoli leads the forces of La Scala in a 1931 Andrea Chénier that preserves the honeyed poet of Beniamino Gigli, the gloriously passionate Maddalena of Lina Bruna Rasa (then just twenty-three) and the magnificent Gérard of Carlo Galeffi (Naxos).

On DVD, Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Guleghina are Chénier and Maddalena in a 1996 telecast of the Met's current staging, by Nicolas Joël (Decca); James Levine conducts. Keith Warner's extraordinary staging for the lakeside stage at the Bregenz Festival is available on DVD and Blu-ray (C Major). Domingo, Gabriela Beňačková and Piero Cappuccilli are the stars of Wiener Staatsoper's luxuriously cast 1981 production, led by Nello Santi (DG). Corelli — looking unbelievably handsome, as was his wont — and Cappuccilli are featured in a 1973 Italian television adaptation (Hardy) with Celestina Casapietra as their somewhat pallid Maddalena. spacer

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Current Issue: November 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 5