Conductor - Marco Armiliato; Carlo Gerard - Mark Delaven, Maddalena de Coigny - Violeta Urmana, Bersi - Maria Zifchak, Andrea Chenier - Ben Heppner, The Incredible (a spy) - David Cangelosi, Roucher - Charles Taylor, Madelon - Irina Mishura.
Story. Andre Chenier is a poet during the time of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. He is introduced in the opera composing a poem mocking the aristocrats invited to a ball by Maddalena's family. Gerard, a servant in the household, quits his job, joins the French Revolution and rises up in its ranks. He falsely accuses Chenier of betraying the cause. Maddalena, who is in love with Andre Chenier, pleads for Chenier's life and promises to marry Gerard if Chenier is saved. Her plea to Gerard describing how her mother was killed and how she and her servant Bersi had to hide from their persecutors wins Gerard over. Despite Gerard's admitting that the charges are trumped up, the tribunal still sentences Chenier to die. Before the execution, Maddalena bribes the prison guard to let her be disguised as another condemned woman prisoner. Maddalena and Andre spend their last moments together before going to the guillotine.
The aria “La mamma morta”, sung by Maria Callas, was made famous in the fireplace scene of the movie Philadelphia with Tom Hanks describing the aria, especially the cello part. It was largely because of my fascination with this song that we went to see the opera. The other interesting thing is there is a causal clothing brand in Hong Kong named Giordano, legend has it that the company founder named the company after the opera composer.
I enjoyed the opera. The sets were elaborately and nicely constructed. The opera also called for a large number of chorus members in scenes such as the ballroom dance and the mob. The music was generally pleasant. What I have read about the opera seems to indicate there are a couple of familiar arias. I only knew the one from Philadelphia, though.
Violetta Urmana is no Maria Callas. She had a different take on the aria than the Callas soundtrack I have, nonetheless it was beautifully performed. Ben Heppner, whom we also saw earlier this season in Idomeneo, was a bit weak. The acting in general was only so-so. The supposedly scene-stealer aria of Madelon, a blind old woman offering her only surviving son to the revolution, was not all that captivating.
Nonetheless, it was well worth the time. The appreciative audience seemed to agree. I also got to review a bit of my European history. Andre Chenier was a historical character. The love story with Maddalena, alas, was made up. The macabre in us made us wonder if they would show a guillotine in the last Act. What they did was cast a shadow of one in the background.