Opera Holland Park – Andrea Chénier

Andrea Chénier

Chénier – John Hudson
Maddalena – Katarina Jovanovic
Gerard – Olafur Sigurdarson
Countess / Madelon – Carole Wilson
Bersi – Heather Shipp
L’incredible – Robert Burt
Mathieu – Charles Johnston
Fleville / Fouquier – Richard Suart
Roucher – Richard Burkhard
L’abate – Aled Hall
Scmidt – Nicholas Folwell
Dumas / Maestro – Nicholas Folwell

Holland Park Opera Chorus

City of London Sinfonia
Peter Robinson

Martin Lloyd-Evans – Director
Peter Rice – Designer
Colin Grenfell – Lighting designer
Isabel Mortimer – Choreographer

Reviewed by: Paul Hutchinson

Reviewed: 22 July, 2005
Venue: Opera Holland Park, London

“Andrea Chénier” was given its first performance in March 1896 at La Scala, Milan (Puccini had scored a triumph with “La Bohème” just two months before).

While ‘Chénier’ does not quite measure up to Puccini’s musical gifts, nor his sense of dramatic frisson, Giordano‘s opera established him as a considerable influence in the operatic field, and “Andrea Chénier” has enjoyed enormous popularity to this day.

This proved to be yet another triumph for the designer, Peter Rice; his minimalist set is most imaginative. A guillotine towered at the centre-back, flanked by six mobile trellis tables, three either side. As the opera opened, servants pulled down blinds of pastel-rococo designs, creating Madame de Coigny’s salon. At the end of the first act, when the mob enters to vandalise the apartment, we are left with a stage-picture of ruin and, at the back, the Guillotine: chilling.

This is lyric-verismo opera, and the score demands sumptuous sound – rich string-tone, and wind-playing that requires a luminous quality. Peter Robinson, as ever, was well up to the task; as well as inspiring the players he is just as accommodating to the singers.

Olafur Sigurdarson is an impressive Gerard; he is among the very best. A generous, sonorous baritone voice, and excellent acting skills, he came over as a real victim of his own sexual jealousy. Pursuing Chénier relentlessly, he propositions Chénier’s lover Maddalena (anticipations of Baron Scarpia in Puccini’s “Tosca”) only to relent by trying to save Chénier from the guillotine. His “Nemico della Patria” in the third act was superb.

Katarina Jovanovic returned to Holland Park Opera as Maddalena de Coigny, the aristocratic daughter, and lover of the poet, Chénier. She possesses the right voice for this part and especially rose to the occasion in the (inspired) “La Mamma Morta”.

John Hudson, a newcomer to Holland Park, with a fine ringing top to his voice, sang the eponymous hero. Chénier is not as challenging a role as some; in fact, with two big arias, and the final scene before he and Maddalena are taken off for execution, Chénier isn’t very active in the drama. Still, he is described as being shy! However, Hudson looked and sounded the part. Carole Wilson seized her moments most movingly and Robert Burt’s L’incredible was a joy to watch.

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