The Stage, 19 November 2010
George Hall  
Ciléa: Adriana Lecouvreur, Royal Opera House, 18 November 2010
Adriana Lecouvreur
This is Covent Garden’s first production in more than a century of Francesco Cilea’s opera about the great 18th century French actress poisoned by a love rival, and comes in a star encrusted package all bound up in David McVicar’s highly traditional production.

A contemporary of Puccini, Cilea achieved his greatest success with this 1902 work, which is still regularly played in Italy and America as a vehicle for a leading soprano - though a rarity elsewhere. Here, the historic diva is sung by Angela Gheorghiu, who makes surprisingly little of some of the big dramatic opportunities offered and sounds less than lavish in her famous opening aria, though elsewhere her silvery tone and shapely line are major assets. She is vividly partnered as her lover, the politically ambitious Maurizio, by Jonas Kaufmann, one of today’s greatest tenors, in ringing voice and fully engaged dramatically, though the rich Latin tone ideally required is arguably not his to command. Michaela Schuster’s grand manner defines the haughty Princess of Bouillon, whose enmity for Adriana results in her death through poisoned violets. Alessandro Corbelli gives the evening’s most detailed performance as Michonnet, stage manager of the Comedie-Francaise, whose unselfish love for Adriana is not returned.

Yet the overall impact is less than it should be. Charles Edwards’ sets and Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s costumes expertly conjure the period locale, and McVicar’s staging goes through the motions without engaging with the material in any profound way. Cilea may not be Puccini - his range and technical skills are at a much lower level - but more charm, wit and authentic passion would deliver his piece more convincingly, though conductor Mark Elder proves a conscientious presence in the pit.

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