The Metropolitan Opera – Adriana Lecouvreur

Adriana Lecouvreur [Opera in four acts to a libretto by Arturo Colautti, based on a play by Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé. Sung in Italian with Met Titles by Sonya Friedman]

Mlle. Jouvenot – Jennifer Black
Michonnet – Roberto Frontali
Poisson – Brian Frutiger
Mlle. Dangeville – Reveka Evangelia Mavrovitis
Quinault – Philip Cokorinos
The Abbé de Chazeuil – Bernard Fitch
The Prince de Bouillon – John Del Carlo
Adriana Lecouvreur – Maria Guleghina
Maurizio – Plácido Domingo
The Princess de Bouillon – Olga Borodina
Major-Domo – Joseph Turi

Judgment of Paris Ballet:
Aphrodite – Emery Lecrone
Athena – Christine McMillan
Hero – Elyssa Dole
Paris – Kfir Danieli
Mercury – Eric Otto

The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Marco Armiliato

Mark Lamos – Staging
C.M. Cristini – Set Designer
Camillo Parravincini – Set Sketches
Ray Diffen – Costume Designer
Jane Greenwood – Additional Costumes
Duane Schuler – Lighting Designer
Sergei Gritsai – Choreographer

Reviewed by: Victor Wheeler

Reviewed: 6 February, 2009
Venue: The Metropolitan Opera, New York City

Plácido Domingo as Maurizio. Photograph: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan OperaSince 1907, when “Adriana Lecouvreur” had its first performance at the Met, the opera has appeared there in fits and starts. It was not performed again at the Met until 1963. In 1968, Plácido Domingo made his debut there as Maurizio in this very opera, when Franco Corelli, who was to have sung the part, became ill. So Domingo stepped in, and the rest, as they say, is history. The current run of the opera is a revival of the 1963 production – a workhorse that has withstood the test of time. It is a good old-fashioned traditional production of period sets and costumes that give a nice feel to 1730 Paris, the year and setting of the opera.

In the first of seven performances of the opera, Plácido Domingo was triumphant in the role of Maurizio (in reality the Count of Saxony), bursting onto the stage in Act 1 with ‘La dolcissima effigie’ (“What sweetness in your smiling face!”), a stirring tenor aria sung to Adriana. Throughout the performance, Domingo handled his singing with aplomb and sensitivity, never faltering at key moments of the opera, such as the Act 2 ‘L’anima stanca’ (“My soul is tired”), in which he admits to the Princess of Bouillon that he no longer loves her. Maurizio’s Act 3 ‘Il russo Mencikoff’ (“The Russian Mencikoff”), in which Maurizio gives an account of his recent battle, was wonderfully sung as the tongue-cheek-number it was meant to be. At the final curtain call, the longest and loudest applauses were for Domingo. He owned the night.

Maria Guleghina as Adriana Lecouvreur & Roberto Fontali as Michonnet. Photograph: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan OperaThat is not to say that the other singers did not hold up their ends of the bargain. Maria Guleghina (Adriana Lecouvreur) used her supple soprano voice to great effect. Her portrayal of the real-life Adriana Lecouvreur (1692-1730), the most famous French actress of her day, was impressive. Guleghina sang Adriana’s Act 1 ‘Io son l’umile ancella’ (“I am just the humble maid of the creative genius”), in response to the compliment the Prince of Buillon gave her, with just the right amount of sweetness and modesty required of the aria’s theme. Adriana’s Act 2 ‘Ma, dunque, è vero’ (“So, is this true then?”) was sung with the warm sentiment the moment begged for. In Act 3, Adriana’s powerful recitation of a part from Racine’s Phèdre in which she lashes out at the Princess with Racine’s words of condemnation, was a work of stagecraft artistry by Guleghina.

In the Act 4 ‘Poviri fiori’ (“Poor flowers”), Guleghina poured out Adriana’s grief at receiving a nosegay of withered violets, thinking it was from Maurizio, and that it meant he was leaving her. In reality, the bouquet had been sent by the jealous Princess of Bouillon, who also loved Maurizio. Violets have a powerful and negative symbolism throughout the opera – in the last act, the back wall of the stage was covered with soft-colored paintings of violets – and ultimately cause Adriana’s death: the nosegay has been poisoned by the Princess, and when Adriana smells the violets, she inhales the poisonous powder that had been sprinkled on them. Guleghina’s portrayal of Adriana’s sudden change of mood when Maurizio appears was credible and intense. Just as suddenly, the poison takes effect and Adriana begins dying. How effectual Guleghina was in bringing about this abrupt turn of events between Adriana and Maurizio! It was truly heartrending.

Olga Borodina as The Princess de Bouillon and Plácido Domingo as Maurizio. Photograph: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan OperaOlga Borodina (The Princess of Bouillon) filled the stage with her character’s wicked presence. Borodina’s evincive mezzo was more than up to the task of eliciting the nastiness lurking within the Princess. Yet at the same time Borodina was perfectly capable of singing with a noble intensity, as in the Act 2 aria, ‘Acerba voluttà, dolce tortura’ (“Oh, what bitter pleasure and sweet torture”) where she sang of her feelings at having to wait for a lover to appear (Maurizio). Borodina’s soaring, demonstrative mezzo voice brought out every nuance and certainty in the Princess’s vile intentions toward Adriana. Truly a night of great singing and acting from a consummate professional.

Roberto Frontali (Michonnet) performed splendidly as the love-struck stage director of the Comédie Française whose feelings of love for Adriana were barely noticed by her: a senseless love effectively rendered. In the Act 1 ‘Ecco il monologo’ (“Here comes the monologue”), Frontali deftly showed us Michonnet’s feelings for Adriana as he watched her perform on the main stage while he was backstage. Bernard Fitch (Abbé de Chazeuil) used his mellifluous tenor voice to perfection all night. His character added touches of humor, which Fitch wonderfully conveyed. John Del Carlo’s (The Prince of Bouillon) pleasant bass-baritone voice brought out his character’s sensibilities clearly and convincingly.

The other singers did their jobs well and were effective, while the chorus had its most dramatic moments in the ballet scene in Act 3 when it shouted out “They’re shooting daggers with their eyes,” referring to Adriana and the Princess. The ballet ‘The Judgment of Paris’ was beautifully danced and brought a bit of French Grand Opera to the stage. Marco Armiliato’s conducting was evenly-paced, never conflicting with the action on the stage; the orchestra played with astuteness all night and, where necessary, with ringing passion and charming sensitivity.

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