Rhinegold Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore
Roberto Alagna as Andrea Chénier © ROH 2019

Francis Muzzu

Review: Andrea Chénier

11:06, 30th May 2019

Andrea Chénier  

Cilea

Royal Opera House

27 May 2019

Review By Francis Muzzu

David McVicar’s production of Andrea Chénier enjoys its first revival at Covent Garden, still looking traditional, glamorous and pristine, as though Japanese organising consultant Marie Kondo has swept through the French Revolution to declutter Paris.  After all, you really do need just the one guillotine. The show is efficient and nobody bumps into anyone, but it is opera by rote: people stand on tables to sing, fights are hammy, children skip, fugitives hide in plain sight – welcome to the 1980’s.

Roberto Alagna makes a valiant attempt at Chénier, brooding well and rising to the emotional climaxes with fervour.  His tenor is not entirely up to the job these days, the nap is worn from the velvet of the voice, but he still has some clarion moments and knows how to sell a big vocal moment.

Dimitri Platanias as Gérard has a fine instrument, his baritone is well-sized for this house and he uses it with taste, but he needs more direction to achieve some dramatic impetus: his Tonio in Pagliacci here in 2015 showed his abilities when enabled to create a more rounded character.

Sondra Radvanovsky’s Maddalena takes the honours vocally and dramatically, capable of letting rip with her massive soprano but also filing it down to a well-supported thread of tone.  Dramatically she doesn’t have too much to bounce off, but succeeds in adding detail to her characterisation.  In Act 1 she is particularly helped by Christine Rice and Rosalind Plowright, both on good form as Bersi and the Contessa respectively.

Elena Zilio chews the scenery admirably as Madelon and Carlo Bosi’s Incredibile is also an excellent cameo.  Daniel Oren’s conducting is quite bizarre: on the one hand confident and pulsing and well-realised, but often incredibly slow, not spacious but in danger of grinding to a halt – aria after aria loses impetus, and only Radvanovksy has the vocal security and range of colours to make something positive of the languor from the pit.

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