Daily Mail, 7 December 2010
David Gillard
Ciléa: Adriana Lecouvreur, Royal Opera House, ab 18 November 2010
This romantic masterpiece is restored and back to stay
Verdict: Restoration of an old master, Rating: 5 Star Rating
It's been more than a hundred years since the Royal Opera last staged Francesco Cilea's melodious masterpiece. But it's back - and if the rapturous response of the first night audience was anything to go by - back to stay.

Cilea - a contemporary of Puccini - is now remembered solely for this work. His fictional account of the life and loves of the 18th century French actress of the title was an immediate hit when it was premiered in Milan in 1902 (starring Caruso).

But, though he lived until 1950, Cilea was never to repeat its success and spent much of the rest of his life teaching rather than composing.

But David McVicar's fine new production - and star performances from Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann - totally vindicates this long overdue reassessment of a neglected verismo classic.

True, the plot is notoriously convoluted and some of the characters little more than two dimensional. But the glamorous and doomed Adriana (she dies from inhaling the scent of poisoned violets sent by a rival!) is perfect territory, vocally and dramatically for Ms Gheorghiu.

It was as another doomed heroine - Verdi's Violetta - that she found ecstatic overnight stardom in this house 16 years ago.

Now the Royal Opera has given her the opportunity to add another memorable historical figure to her great gallery. And she seizes it brilliantly.

Her Adriana is a sensitive, loving and impulsive creature of the theatre, far less imperious and volatile than Puccini's Tosca. And she sings it with characteristic creamy-toned elegance and beguiling sensual allure.

Kaufmann is a dramatic powerhouse, finding all the Italianate passion in her lover, Maurizio. He is surely the most charismatic, magnetic, dark-toned tenor since Domingo and he held the house by the throat.

And director McVicar rightly plays it straight. His authentically set production is dominated by designer Charles Edwards' splendid recreation of an 18th-century theatre - an evocative stage within a stage.

There's a strong supporting cast - Michaela Schuster and Alessandro Corbelli as Adriana's rival and mentor are outstanding.

But final plaudits go to Sir Mark Elder for finding both the gorgeous romantic sweep and sparkling intimacy of this lovely score.

A masterpiece restored.

Masterful new production: Angela Gheorghiu as Adriana Lecouvreur and Jonas Kaufmann as Maurizio thrill in the opera

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