Gloucestershire Echo, February 01, 2015
By Colin Davison
Giordano: Andrea Chenier, London, Royal Opera House, 29. Januar 2015
Andrea Chenier, ROH relay
Football isn’t the only game of two halves, and I was definitely losing this one at the interval.

Umberto Giordano’s opera set during the French Revolution was first performed just two months after La Boheme; both had the same librettist and both were immediate hits.

But Giordano was no tunesmith like Puccini, and the first two acts came as a reminder of why the former’s only surviving work is so seldom performed.

He was in some ways the more progressive composer, shunning big numbers for post-Wagnerian melody without end. Alas, even in Chenier’s early poetic ode to nature that can seem more like melody with no beginning.

The story too is slow to start and an opening act that characterises the remoteness of aristocratic life by staging a dull, stately ballet becomes – well, rather dull.

Things picked up immensely after half-time, as if the manager gave someone a kick up the Umberto. The style shifts back to big numbers, and baritone Zeljko Lucic immediately lifted the pace with Gerard’s stirring patriotic number “Nemico della patria” to get the crowd going.

There is a foreshadow of Scarpia as Gerard threatens to ransom the life of Chenier for the physical favours of Maddalena, but having already saved the day with his performance above, Gerard does the decent thing – standing aside for the closing love duets that redeem the work.

The leading rolls are immensely challenging, with fragmentary phrases and sudden leaps to top notes, rather like attempting a high jump with a restricted run-up.

Even Jonas Kaufmann, one of the world’s finest tenors, admitted having delayed singing the roll of the doomed poet on stage until now.

The delay was evidently well-judged, for it brought a performance of extraordinary control and consummate artistry. Eva-Maria Westbroek was almost as good as Maddalena, the pair combining with particular delicacy before their final exultant duet.

True to Giordano’s style of extreme verismo, David McVicar’s production was impressive in its attention to historical detail, down to the tumbrel rolling past with condemned aristos.

I caught this production not at the live relay but at an encore transmission three days later. Why then does the Royal Opera not edit out the delays between scene changes?

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