The Telegraph, 21 Jan 2015
By Rupert Christiansen
Giordano: Andrea Chenier, London, Royal Opera House, 20. Januar 2015
Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera House, review: 'powerful'
Only connoisseurs will go home grumpy from this handsome staging of Giordano’s hoary melodrama, says Rupert Christiansen

The casting is gold-plated. Jonas Kaufmann is playing the title role for the first time and has perhaps not yet fully sung himself in. So intelligent is his musicianship, so clear his diction, so noble his presence and secure his tone that one feels ungrateful in carping at a lack of warmth in his characterisation and the absence of expansive tenorial glow in his top register – qualities that Domingo in his prime had in abundance.

Eva-Maria Westbroek makes a more emotionally generous impression. She can’t match Kaufmann’s vocal polish and her “La mamma morta” emerged on the wild side, but she is a genuine actress who makes the plight of the smitten aristocrat Maddalena not only plausible but touching.

The evening’s biggest ovation, however, went to Zeljko Lucic, who gave a generic but powerful performance as the turncoat Gerard – his impassioned rendition of the Act III monologue hit the bullseye that Kaufmann and Westbroek just missed. Further down the line, one registered crisply defined cameos from Roland Wood (Roucher) and Peter Hoare (the Abbé), as well as turns from several plucky veterans.

Antonio Pappano conducts with fervour, and at times uncharacteristically allows the orchestra to overwhelm the singers. But the fault lies on the right side: this is a score of the third class – music of shreds and patches, bombastic and crude, fuelled by hot air – which has to be attacked head-on if it is to make any impact. Unless you keep the volume high and the pace fast, its essential tawdriness becomes horribly evident.

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