Umberto's Giordano's Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology. "It's more of an opera", said a lady, making a long pause, "......than Fedora." That said, it's so full of catchy tunes and star turns that it would make a great feel-good West End musical. Basically, it's a pot boiler even by opera standards. Had it been written 30 years later it would have been a Hollywood extravaganza, complete with dancing girls. But gosh, is it fun in its own camp way!
Jonas Kaufmann redeems the opera altogether, and raises it to an altogether higher level of power and dignity .The part is ideal for his rich, Italianate timbre with its hints of mystery and sensuality. Technically, the Big Numbers in Andrea Chénier aren't nearly as brilliant or as beautiful as those in, say, Manon Lescaut, but they provides moments of display stunning even the least musical members of the audience. Fortunately, Kaufmann is a genuine artist, who doesn't do things just for show. He creates the part with his singing, suggesting much more depth and complexity than the composer might have dared to imagine. This Andrea Chénier is a bad boy, a rock star, an outsider who writes poetry in an age of violence, yet he has the finesse to entrance a posh girl like Maddalena di Coigny. . After that "Un dì all'azzurro spazio" I was smitten, too.
Andrea Chénier is most certainly "Regie" because every production, no matter how banal, is a form of interpretation of meaning. David McVicar "decorates" but misinterprets meaning. The Revolution happened because, for a moment, people realized that superficial appearances deceive. It says much about modern society that people nowadays treasure trappings over truth. A man behind me kept talking loudly, bursting into insincere autopilot bravos and bragging about himself. Never before have I experienced behaviour as boorish as that, especially not at ROH. If he really did know opera as well as he claimed to, surely he might have noticed that the implicit values of Andrea Chénier are quite the opposite?
Fortunately, Željko Lučić sang with such dignified fervour that those who go to opera to listen would have appreciated the depths inherent in the drama which this staging did so much to nullify. Kaufmann gets star billing, for good reason, but Lučić reached the true emotional depths. A big cast, young singers as impressive as the older ones.
photos : Bill Cooper, Royal Opera House