Evening Standard, 19 November 2010
Barry Millington
Ciléa: Adriana Lecouvreur, Royal Opera House, 18 November 2010
Drama on and off stage for Adriana Lecouvreur
According to the New Grove Dictionary, Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur retains what popularity it does on account of the opportunities it affords an experienced prima donna already past her prime.

While it’s true it has often served as a vehicle for fading divas, it would be ungallant to suggest Angela Gheorghiu fell into that category. But as David McVicar’s brilliantly imaginative new production for Covent Garden — the first since 1906 — shows, there is no requirement for Adriana to be such an aging starlet.

The story, set in 18th-century Paris, features theatrical stars, dramas on stage and off, passion, jealousy and a poisoning with a nosegay of violets. It’s not quite full-blown verismo, the melodramatic genre relished by 19th-century Italians, but it comes pretty close.

McVicar’s neat concept suggests that the theatre in which these characters act out their amorous and deadly drama is actually a metaphor for the illusions harboured by lovers, actresses and by extension all of us. Charles Edwards’s ingenious set, with colourful period costumes by Brigitte Reiffenstuel and skilful lighting by Adam Silverman, is a model theatre loosely based on the Margravian Opera House in Bayreuth. We begin backstage, witnessing the behind-the-scenes drama at the Comédie Française while observing a performance silently enacted the other side of the lights. The set turns so that the second-act villa resembles the front of a stage; in Act 3 we’re in the audience and in Act 4 backstage again for the climax of the drama.

Gheorghiu does well to evoke a prima donna past her prime, while Michaela Schuster presents a formidably sour-faced rival as the Princess. The dashing, heroic-voiced Jonas Kaufmann is everybody’s favourite tenor at the moment and his command of the role of the much-lusted-after Maurizio is supreme, combining ringing top notes and wonderfully delicate half-tones.

Alessandro Corbelli is sympathetic as the stage manager Michonnet, hopelessly in love with Adriana himself.

With his subtle handling of diaphanous string textures and flawless pacing, Mark Elder demonstrates convincingly how underrated this score actually is.
Foto: Alastair Muir

  www.jkaufmann.info back top