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John Yohalem
Opera News, October 2010

CILEA, F.: Adriana Lecouvreur (Teatro Regio Torino, 2009) (NTSC) 101497
CILEA, F.: Adriana Lecouvreur (Teatro Regio Torino, 2009) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 101498

This Adriana Lecouvreur was broadcast live from Turin in 2009, an astonishing date for its style: the production is set among the furnishings, costumes and wigs of the proper time and place, eighteenth-century Paris. The only anachronisms are the ballet costumes in Act III, far briefer than that era would have deemed acceptable. Alas, the bare flesh adds little to the charms of the mediocre dancers, but the rest of the performance is as close as you will probably get these days to the genuine pleasures of this opera—with the additional delight, courtesy of the high-definition technology, of being able to trace the curl of every fleur-de-lis and feather in every elegant swatch of silk or suede.

Don’t ask me how some chic director would update Adriana, or why anyone would bother; if they did, you just know the piece would be unwatchable, its delicate, old-lace fragrance dispersed and something tawdry replacing it. There is no deep psychological subtext to unearth in the Adriana machine, based on a typically crowded Scribe historical canvas; everyone’s motives are mixed and masked, everyone is “playing a part,” but nothing is concealed from the viewer.

Micaela Carosi has an old-fashioned spinto sound, warm and womanly, and an old-fashioned presence—ease in soft singing, well-supported power without shrillness, and excellent diction in both her sung and spoken passages. Someone appears to have advised her to be “actressy” in the big arias, and this is unfortunate. The real Adrienne Lecouvreur was an inventor of theatrical “naturalism,” and the character’s entrance aria, the irresistible “Io son l’umile ancella,” is a statement of her modesty, her subservience to the playwright whose work she performs. As Carosi plays it, the aria is all feathery gestures and crazy posturings for applause. Such eccentricities mar “Poveri fiori,” as well. Otherwise—in the great duets with Maurizio, the tense scene in the dark with the Princess, the tender moments with Michonnet—Carosi is unaffected and natural, and she sings beautifully. This performance will please those who love this opera, if they can grit their teeth through the overdone “Io son l’umile ancella.”

Tenor Marcelo Álvarez does not cut a terribly romantic figure, but he sings like one, with passionate urgency that never becomes strident or brittle. He draws the loudest ovation of the night for his battle aria, and he deserves it. By contrast, Marianne Cornetti’s “Vagabonda stella” gets no reaction at all—and deserves none, as it is full of colorless notes topped by a wobble. Her Princess settles down later, for the scenes with Maurizio and Adriana, to make some very acceptable sounds, but the initial impression is against her. Alfonso Antoniozzi makes a charming Michonnet, and the rest of the cast is highly professional. Renato Palumbo recollects the grand style and promenades us through Cilèa’s melodious fabric, wringing every possible sigh and tear. I couldn’t get the damned gavotte out of my head for days.

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, August 2010

Adrienne Lecouvreur (5 April 1692 – 20 March 1730) was a French actress who was a proponent of a more naturalized style of performance. There are disagreements about whether (as indicated in this opera) she was really poisoned by her rival Maria Karolina Sobieska, Duchess of Bouillon for the affections of Maurice de Saxe, later the Marshal General of France. But Cilea’s opera is one of the more popular verisimo operas in the repertory, a style of realism that entered the music world with the advent of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana. Adriana has plenty of libretto weaknesses—what opera doesn’t—but the music comes to the rescue each time.

The main role is really split between the two female protagonists with that of the heroine slightly winning out with the virtual banishment of the character of La principessa di Bouillon from the fourth (and longest) Act altogether. The remarks in the opening paragraph really do sum up the plot—Adriana, a popular but still class-wise lowly actress is in rivalry for the affections of Maurizio, who returns them despite the machinations of the Princess, who at least implicitly poisons some flowers that Adriana opens in the last act and gets a huge whiff of. There is little action in this work and lots of moralizing about art and what not, but again, the music always wins the day and makes the length tolerable, though this opera is usually cut, sometimes severely.

This is a live production that takes place in Torino on a relatively small stage. The sets are fairly bare bones though hardly expressionistic or anything like that, though the costumes are very ornate genuine period outfits that look good. I like Micaela Carosi in the title role though I can imagine more fluidity in the voice than what she gives. She does sing with a great deal of inflection and passion. American Marianne Cornetti is good as her nemesis with a searing mezzo voice of great impact...The real star of this production, and I think the real superstar among the vocalists is Marcelo Alvarez, a wonderful belting tenor of the old school who makes the most of his every dramatic moment. The other roles are well sung indeed, and this intimate look at a very tragic woman who really once walked among us, though badly plotted, resonates through Cilea’s superb score. There are about six DVD versions out there, the most noted being Montserrat Caballé and José Carreras from quite a while back, and I am sure this is the first and only Blu-ray edition. As such, recommended, and also because it really is nicely done, the local orchestra playing magnificently like they have been doing it since childhood—which they probably have.

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