Opera Scotland

Andrea Chénier

Music
Umberto Giordano (born Foggia, 28 August 1867; died Milan, 12 November 1948)

Text
Luigi Illica.

Source
Original.

Premières
First performance: Milan (Teatro alla Scala), 28 March 1896.
First UK performance: Manchester (), 2 April 1903.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Empire Theatre), 18 October 1960 (perhaps earlier).
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (Royal Concert Hall), 13 March 2005 (concert).

Background
The opera was an immediate success, and has remained on the fringes of the repertoire ever since. It is dramatically effective, with a mixture of verismo elements and a picturesque French Revolutionary setting, though none of the characters develop, and remain fairly two-dimensional. However the three leading characters, Chénier, Maddalena and Gérard, all have important and effective solos, and the final scene provides a rousing conclusion. The opera also contains period-style dance music and makes use of several authentic revolutionary songs, including the Marseillaise.

Main Characters
Carlo Gérard, a servant of the Countess, later an agent of Robespierre (baritone)
Maddalena di Coigny (soprano)
Contessa di Coigny, her mother (mezzo-soprano)
Bersi, Maddalena’s mulatto maid (mezzo-soprano)
Pietro Fléville, a cavalier (baritone)
Andrea Chénier, a poet (tenor)
Roucher, a friend of Chénier (bass)
Incredibile, an informer (tenor)
Madelon, an old woman (mezzo-soprano)
Fouquier-Tinville, attorney-general (baritone)

Plot Summary
The first act shows events just as the French Revolution is getting under way. The old countess is giving a reception at which Chénier is guest of honour. Her daughter, Maddalena, is struck by the radical nature of Chénier’s political views. The party is interrupted by a demonstration by some peasants, who are led by Gérard, who abandons his position as a servant.

The remaining three acts occur five years later, and the Reign of Terror is at its height. Chénier has become disillusioned by the constant bloodshed and is being encouraged by his friend Roucher to leave the country. Maddalena, now a fugitive, following the murder of her mother and destruction of her home, seeks Chénier’s protection just as Gérard makes a move to have her arrested. Chénier protects her by wounding Gérard, and Roucher helps her escape. Later on, Chénier is arrested and put on trial. Even Gérard’s attempt to win Maddalena’s love by saving Chénier cannot prevent him from being condemned. In prison, Chénier awaits the guillotine. Maddalena, who has, with Gérard’s help, changed places with another condemned prisoner, joins Chénier, and they go to their deaths together.

The Cast

Abbé
 
Andrea Chénier
 a poet
Bersi
 Maddalena’s mulatto maid
Carlo Gérard
 Charles Gérard, a servant of the Countess, later an agent of Robespierre
Countess di Coigny
 Maddalena's mother
Dumas
 president of the council
Fléville
 Pierre Fléville, a cavalier
Fouquier-Tinville
 attorney-general
Incredibile
 an 'incroyable' or young beau, also an informer
Maddalena
 Madeleine de Coigny
Madelon
 an old woman
Major-domo
 
Mathieu
 a waiter
Roucher
 a friend of Chénier
Schmidt
 gaoler at St Lazare prison

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