Andrea Chenier – opera in four Acts to a libretto by Luigi Illica [sung in Italian with English surtitles]
Major-Domo – Edward Jowle
Carlo Gérard – Yuriy Yurchak
Maddalena Di Coigny – Claire Rutter
La Contessa Di Coigny – Fiona Kimm
Bersi – Yvonne Howard
Pietro Fléville – Edward Danon
The Abbé – Peter Bronder
Andrea Chénier – Gwyn Hughes Jones
Mathieu – Thomas D. Hopkinson
I’incredibile – Peter Bronder
Roucher – Phillip Rhodes
Madelon – Fiona Kimm
Dumas – Edward Jowle
Fouquier-Tinville– Edward Danon
Schmidt – Edward Jowle
Chorus & Orchestra of Chelsea Opera Group
Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell
Reviewed: 29 May, 2022
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
|This was a no-holds-barred account of Giordano’s most-famous work – one in which the minute detail of Illica’s libretto emerged as newly minted owing to some deft characterisation by the cast, some singing a variety of roles. The opera is a (demanding) gift for the tenor singing the title role – he has four great arias and duets and the chance to be impassioned, amorous, defiant and heroic at each turn.|
However, there is an array of cameo roles that can really enliven a performance as was shown here; indeed, some of the portrayals came close to scene stealing. Take Fiona Kimm. Her Contessa was the embodiment of aristocratic entitlement and every word told. That she could then transform into an aged Madelon full of pathos and innate dignity showed all her dramatic and vocal flair. Peter Bronder likewise – his gossipy Abbé contrasted with his oily, Machiavellian spy. Yvonne Howard was a sympathetic Bersi, Phillip Rhodes a generous and sappy-voiced Roucher, and Messrs Jowle, Danon and Hopkinson impressed in their various contributions.
Gwyn Hughes Jones unleashed a flood of heroic tone at his every utterance; this Chénier was strong on political thrill and defiance, and fiery in his more passionate outpourings particularly in his judgement scene. Some tenors have brought more charm to Chénier, but Hughes Jones was a very valid and interesting concept. Indeed, Act Three was the moment where the tension of the performance suddenly escalated to thrilling effect. This was principally because Gianluca Marcianò managed to keep the momentum flowing so that the ‘big’ arias were not followed by applause as might happen in the theatre. Thus, Yuriy Yurchuk’s commanding baritone was heard to glorious effect in ‘Nemico della patria?’ right up to the declaration of love but then culminated in the angry burst of self-loathing that immediately follows, surely what the composer really intended.
Claire Rutter was on marvellous form. Much of early sections of the role sit in the middle of the voice and are somewhat declamatory. For these Rutter sang with warmth and point – this Maddalena was a rather serious-minded young lady. But Rutter’s voice promised and then delivered far more, opening up with visceral power and beauty in ‘La mamma morta’.
The Chorus could perhaps have benefitted from greater numbers but singing was lusty and engaged. Marcianò’s players likewise did a sterling job, relishing the sweeping melodies and ebb and flow of this verismo score.