The HD Live from the Met series returns to the Salmar Classic with a showing of Sir David McVicar’s production of Adriana Lecouvreur on Saturday, Jan. 12.
Reigning diva, soprano Anna Netrebko, tackles Francesco Cilea’s larger-than-life actress for the first time at the Met, in an exhilarating new production by Sir David McVicar and conducted by maestro Gianandrea Noseda.
Tenor Piotr Beczala, mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili and baritone Ambrogio Maestri join the soprano.
Francesco Cilea (1866-1950) belonged to the generation of Italian composers that produced such greats as Puccini and Mascagni. Arturo Colautti (1851-1914), a poet, novelist and creator of comedies transformed the play by French dramatist Eugène Scribe (1791-1861) into the libretto; the world premiere was at Teatro Lirico, Milan 1902.
Adriana Lecouvreur is a clever combination of frank emotionalism, flowing melody, and historical spectacle that unfolds in Paris in 1730. The story was inspired by the real-life intrigues of famed actress Adrienne Lecouvreur (1692-1730) and the legendary soldier and lover, Maurice, Count of Saxony.
The Met’s first new production of this work in more than half a century embraces Cilea’s glamorous and elegant 18th-century Parisian setting. McVicar says he created a “stage within a stage, and we’re never quite sure who is performing and who is telling the truth.”
Adrienne was the celebrity sensation of her day. Onstage, she was both adored and reviled for her emotionally frank, naturalistic method of performing, while offstage, scandal was her constant companion. When Adrienne died suddenly and mysteriously at age 37, wagging tongues quickly blamed her demise on her imperious rival, the Princess of Bouillon and an unusual weapon.
The score of Adriana Lecouvreur relies on elegance and a skilful weaving of themes rather than symphonic grandeur but generally serves to showcase the talents of singers and has endured as a favourite of charismatic soloists. Lyricism abounds in the solos, particularly in the tenor’s Act I aria “La dolcissima effigie” (I see in you the sweet effigy of my dear mother). The title character’s ravishing Act I aria “lo son l’umile ancella” (I am the humble handmaiden of the creative genius) has become a soprano anthem of sorts.
People often call Adriana Lecouvreur an ‘Opera-lover’s opera.” It is actually an opera about opera, about the mad magic of the theatre and the women who star in it.
Showtime begins at 9:55 a.m.