The Australian, 10 August 2019
Murray Black
Giordano: Andrea Chenier, Sydney, 8.August 2019
Tragic love and revolt, splendidly executed
Jonas Kaufmann, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Ludovic Tezier all excelled in a concert performance of Andrea Chenier.
Italian composer Umberto Giordano once was considered a potential heir to Giuseppe Verdi, but his reputation now rests almost exclusively on the opera Andrea Chenier (1896).
Set just before and during the French Revolution, it tells the tragic tale of doomed poet Andrea Chenier, his lover Maddalena de Coigny and her former servant turned revolutionary leader Carlo Gerard, who are caught up in the turmoil of one of modern history’s great defining events. Although a key work of the verismo movement, it sometimes gets a bad rap from critics.

This is unfair. Andrea Chenier is no masterpiece but its strengths are many. Giordano’s score is rich in melodic invention and offers spectacular technical challenges for the three lead roles. Its dramatic urgency and pulsating energy capture the atmosphere of revolutionary tumult, and its political sophistication is the equal of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and Don Carlos.
A concert performance of the opera relies almost entirely on singers and orchestra to carry the drama. This outstanding interpretation succeeded in doing so. Conductor Pinchas Steinberg and Opera Australia Orchestra’s shrewd tempo and dynamic control ensured their accompaniment was ideally paced, seamlessly negotiating the many changes of mood and atmosphere. Brisk speeds, zestful rhythms and forceful attack generated high-voltage intensity and propulsive momentum while their opulent sonorities and long-breathed lines realised the score’s sweeping ardour and lyrical beauty.

Andrea Chenier needs three exceptional singers in the lead roles to take flight. Although each had their individual virtues, they all excelled here in their remarkable stamina, shapely phrasing and excellent diction.

Since making his role debut at Covent Garden in 2015, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann regularly has performed the role of the title character to great acclaim. It is easy to see why.
Kaufmann was a magnificent Chenier, displaying resounding top-register strength, superb dynamic control, complexity of colour and incisive clarity. In both voice and gesture he embodied Chenier’s passionate fervour and resolute idealism.

Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek was also Kaufmann’s Covent Garden castmate as Maddalena. Westbroek sang firm and strong, her appealing timbral warmth and agile sense of line conveying her character’s tender compassion and courage.

As Carlo Gerard, baritone Ludovic Tezier sang with stentorian power and an appealing array of burnished, dark colours. Tezier’s sympathetic characterisation convincingly captured Gerard’s complex emotional state, thwarted in love and increasingly disillusioned with politics.

The large cast of supporting singers all sang superbly and the Opera Australia chorus impressed with its powerful fortissimo outbursts and sustained sotto voce passages.
Andrea Chenier By Umberto Giordano.

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