|Act one of Andrea Chenier at Royal Opera House - © ROH. Bill Cooper 2015|
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 23 2015
Superbly done, but you wished for something musically meatier or a production with a bit of edge
We caught up with Covent Garden's much anticipated production of Giordano's Andrea Chenier at the Royal Opera House on Friday 23 January 2015. David McVicar's new production (the first at Covent Garden for 30 years, and yes I did see that one too), was designed by Robert Jones (sets) and Jenny Tiramani (costumes) with lighting by Adam Silverman and movement by Andrew George. Jonas Kaufmann was Andrea Chenier, Eva-Maria Westbroek was Maddalena, Zeljko Lucic was Carlo Gerard, with a large cast including Denyce Graves, Rosalind Plowright, Peter Coleman-Wright, Peter Hoare, Carlo Bosi, Roland Wood, Elena Zilio, and dancers Sarah O'Connell and Roger Molist. Antonio Pappano conducted the Royal Opera House Orchestra.
|Jonas Kaufmann in Andrea Chenier at Royal Opera House - |
© ROH. Bill Cooper 2015
You feel that if Puccini had been writing the opera, he would have insisted on changes and focussed in greater detail on salient moments. If you consider Tosca, we learn almost nothing of the background in Scarpia's Rome it is left to suggestion. Whereas Giordano has filled his opera with picaresque, Massenet-like detail without quite Massenet's gift for bringing his characters into the foreground and developing them.
This was an extremely handsome production with a very strong cast. Robert Jones's large scale set was flexible and attractive, creating a series of substantial interior and exterior settings which were beautifully lit by Adam Silverman. David McVicar seems to have decided to take the opera at complete face value, so that Jenny Tiramani's costumes were a welter of colourful period detail. Too much so in fact, and this combined with McVicar's handling of the ensemble moments in the middle two acts, tended to make you wonder whether we had wandered into a production of the musical Les Miserables! Frankly, I wanted a little more edge to the work. The moment in Act one when the peasantry bursts into the Contessa di Coigny's soiree just wasn't threatening enough, and during the post-Revolution acts we just did not feel that the crowd, with its mass of colourful characters, was at all liable to turn violent at any moment.
Once you had got over the feeling that you rather wished you were seeing him in a rather greater work, Jonas Kaufmann was superb in the title role. He stalked about the stage looking every inch the lean and hungry poet. The improvviso in Act one was superbly done, with Kaufmann's familiar dark, baritonal and highly sculpted line suiting the music and the character perfectly. He did not have the open Italianate sound that Carreras and Domingo brought to the role, but he added a superbly intelligent shaping of the music and a superb, dark intensity. He really did smoulder.