Wednesday the 8th of March, 8pm – Prepared by Camille Mercep
ADRIANA LECOUVREUR: Joan Sutherland, sop
MAURIZIO: Carlo Bergonzi, ten
PRINCESS OF BOUILLON: Cleopatra Ciurca, mezz
Members of Comédie-Française; Welsh National Opera Ch & O/Richard Bonynge
Adriana Lecouvreur is a four-act opera composed by Francesco Cilea with a libretto by Arturo Colautti. The opera premiered at the Teatro Lirico in Milan, Italy, in 1902 and has since become a staple of the Italian opera repertoire. Adriana Lecouvreur tells the story of the titular character, a famous French actress, and her tragic love affair with Maurizio, the Count of Saxony.
The opera is set in 18th-century Paris, and it begins with Adriana Lecouvreur (soprano) performing on stage at the Comédie-Française. She receives a bouquet of flowers from Maurizio (tenor), who is secretly in love with her. Adriana is immediately smitten with Maurizio and agrees to meet him later that night at her dressing room. When she arrives, she finds another woman, the Princess de Bouillon (mezzo-soprano), in Maurizio’s arms. The two women exchange verbal barbs, and Adriana realizes that Maurizio has been leading her on.
The rest of the opera is a tragic love triangle between Adriana, Maurizio, and the Princess de Bouillon. The two women are in competition for Maurizio’s affections, and Adriana is torn between her love for him and her pride. Meanwhile, the Princess de Bouillon is plotting to ruin Adriana’s career and reputation. In the final act, the Princess de Bouillon sends a poisoned bouquet of violets to Adriana, which she unknowingly accepts and dies from. Maurizio realizes too late that he truly loves Adriana and is devastated by her death.
One of the highlights of Adriana Lecouvreur is the vocal performances of the lead characters. The role of Adriana requires a soprano with a powerful voice and a wide range. The character is also emotionally complex, and the singer must be able to convey her conflicting feelings of love, jealousy, and pride. The role of Maurizio is also demanding, as the tenor must convey his own conflicted feelings towards both women. The Princess de Bouillon is a mezzo-soprano role that requires a strong, dramatic voice to portray the character’s scheming nature.
Another standout feature of Adriana Lecouvreur is its sumptuous orchestral score. Cilea’s music is full of lush melodies and intricate harmonies that perfectly capture the emotional turmoil of the characters. The opera’s most famous aria is “Io son l’umile ancella” (“I am the humble servant”), which Adriana sings in the second act. The aria is a showcase for the soprano’s voice and is often performed in recitals and concerts outside of the opera.
Adriana Lecouvreur has had a long and successful history on the operatic stage. It has been performed by some of the most famous sopranos and tenors of the 20th century, including Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti. The opera’s popularity has also led to numerous recordings and adaptations, including a film version starring the legendary soprano Anna Netrebko.
In conclusion, Adriana Lecouvreur is a timeless masterpiece of Italian opera that continues to captivate audiences with its complex characters, sumptuous score, and tragic story. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its enduring appeal and its ability to touch the hearts of audiences across generations.