|The Real Adrienne|
|The real Maurice|
Enter the young Duchesse de Bouillon, fourth wife of the elderly Duke, who also became enarmoured of the dashing Maurice - hardly surprising since her husband was forty years older than she, and Maurice so handsome. The rivalry of the two woman became the gossip of Paris. Then [*cue mysterious music*] Adrienne received a note asking her to meet a mysterious stranger in the Jardin de Luxembourg. Intruiged, Adrienne gathered some friends for support and went to the rendevous, where she was met by a hunchbacked priest (there would have to be a hunch-backed priest in the story) who claimed that the Duchesse had asked him to give Adrienne a magic philtre (don't you love that word?) containing a potion to stop her loving Maurice. But he suspected foul play (quick of him, eh?). Adrienne and her friends took the potion and fed it to a dog, which dropped dead immediately.
The gossip hit the court and the theatre world. The Duchesse protested her innocence and even turned up at one of Adrienne's performances, of Racine's Phèdre. Adrienne, prima donna that she was, seized the opportunity to declaim, right under the Duchesse's box, Phèdre's lines insiting that she is not 'one of these bold women/who can taste tranquillity in crime/and show an unblushing face to the world.'
Shock, horror, scandal. The crowd went wild, the Duchesse threatened to sue and the Comédie Française had to issue an apology. It didn't look too good for the Duchesse, however, when Adrienne collapsed, gravely ill, in the middle of a performance a few days later. She recovered, but died about a month later, in Maurice's loving arms, I am pleased to report.
|Angela Gheorghiu & Jonas Kaufmann|
As to the divine Maurizio, the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann sang his heart out - and looked gorgeous besides. What can I say? Superlatives don't do it. Couldn't be better. And I've just read a post that says he was apparently unwell last night! They used last Tuesday's performance for the broadcast. All I can say is, I want to hear him when he's well!!
|Ms Olga Borodina|
I need also to mention Alessandro Corbelli as Michonnet, Adriana's faithful theatre manager who suffers an unrequited love for her, sung very movingly. Bonaventura Bottone sang (and acted very comically) the role of the Abbe de Chazeuil (he's not a hunchback in this version). Then there's the sumptuous and clever set design, which opens backstage at the Comédie Française, moves from villa to palace, and backstage again. The costumes are to die for, too. Oh, plus there's a long ballet in the third Act which is not as boring as those things usually are. The conductor was Mark Elder and the director David McVicar (redeemed from that less than lovely 'Rigoletto' last month).
For anyone of a literal turn of mind the story solely as expressed in the libretto has gaps, but Adriana Lecouvreur is not unique in the opera repertory in this regard.Indeed.
During interval I overheard a neighbouring patron discussing the performance. She praised the singers but was disparaging about the opera. 'Wasted on them', she felt. She found the characters one dimensional and said she didn't really feel that the two women were 'suffering'. As yes - the interesting question of how 'suffering' can actually result in aesthetic appreciation. I think I covered that in my Schopenhauer essay - but I digress. My advice on 'Adriana'? Don't write it off. Possibly this performance is carried by the stars, and another cast or production might not raise it to the heights so successfully. But I found the story moving (once I worked out what was going on - it's a little too confused with minor characters in the beginning). And the last 'dying' scene, with a long duet between Angela and Jonas - sorry, Adriana and Maurizio - was absolutely absorbing, On a par with the last act of 'Traviata', on last night's offering. As theartsdesk.com put it: 'the greatest Pucinni opera that composer didn't write' (although it's not verismo like Puccini).
If you'd like to read a review of the opera try this one. Or this fan who was also there last night and also loved it.
Can you tell that I loved it? In case there's any doubt: I loved it.
Adrienne's real life story sourced from the ROH program article 'The Real Adrienne' by Katherine Ibbet