[Met Performance] CID:323860
New Production
Andrea Chénier {152} Metropolitan Opera House: 04/6/1996.

(Debuts: Michael Chioldi, Larissa Diadkova, Nicolas Joël, Hubert Monloup

Metropolitan Opera House
April 6, 1996
New Production

U. Giordano-Illica

Andrea Chénier..........Luciano Pavarotti
Maddalena...............Aprile Millo
Carlo Gérard............Juan Pons
Bersi...................Wendy White
Countess di Coigny......Rosalind Elias
Abbé....................Bernard Fitch
Fléville................Michael Chioldi [Debut]
L'Incredibile...........Michel Sénéchal
Roucher.................Kim Josephson
Mathieu.................John Del Carlo
Madelon.................Larissa Diadkova [Debut]
Dumas...................Jeffrey Wells
Fouquier Tinville.......Yanni Yannissis
Schmidt.................Richard Vernon
Major-domo..............Bradley Garvin

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............Nicolas Joël [Debut]
Designer................Hubert Monloup [Debut]
Lighting designer.......Duane Schuler

Andrea Chénier received seven performances this season.

Production a gift of The Annenberg Foundation

Review of Martin Bernheimer in the Los Angeles Times of April 18, 1996

The Hero Returns in 'Chenier'

In a new challenge, Luciano Pavarotti remains a vocal wonder despite dramatic problems.

NEW YORK - The new production on display at the Metropolitan Opera on Tuesday was "Andrea Chenier." It might just as well have been called "Luciano Pavarotti."

Giordano's blood-sweat-and-mush examination of the Reign of Terror has always served as a grateful showcase for star tenors, especially those who can project fiery passion, stalwart idealism and dreamy poetry with equal conviction. Relatively recent paragons have included Mario del Monaco, Franco Corelli, Richard Tucker, Carlo Bergonzi and Placido Domingo. All these would-be heroes took on the strenuous challenge while in their youthful prime. Pavarotti, who recorded the role over a decade ago (not very impressively), attempted it onstage for the first time only this month - at the age of 60.

The doomsayers approached the event with gleeful pessimism. Erstwhile pirate of the high Cs, Pavarotti had taken on an unwise revival of "La Fille du Regiment" and come to grief - even with the notorious barrage of Cs transposed downward. Chenier makes no great demands on the top register, but the role does require extrovert thrust and daunting stamina. It isn't exactly the sort of challenge one associates with lyrical sexagenarians.

Compounding the ultra -operatic buzz, aficionados speculated that certain strains of domestic strife could affect the performance. It is no secret, after all, that Pavarotti has left his wife in favor of his pretty young secretary. The tenorissimo fascinates scandal columnists these days even more than he interests music critics.

Under the circumstances, it is gratifying to report that Pavarotti turned "Andrea Chenier" into a vocal triumph. Stress the adjective.

He sang on Tuesday like an artist who had somehow discovered the fountain of youth. His tone emerged bright, fresh and vibrant, a few pardonable signs of stress in ascending passages notwithstanding. His phrasing was a model of suavity and grace, his diction a model of clarity and precision. He shaded the text with telling finesse in moments of romantic introspection, caressed the line with sensuous allure in moments of impetuous ardor. It was wonderful, and the multitudinous fans responded with de facto delirium.

Pavarotti's dramatic portrait turned out to be another matter. In essence, the aging idol mustered a cautious personal appearance, hardly a characterization.

He was the best of heroes and the worst of heroes.

Sporting an incongruous beard (his own), he turned the dashing, impetuous protagonist into a portly, oddly reticent, perpetually down-cast statue. Bowing to apparent physical infirmities, he kept motion to a minimum, sat whenever possible, and, when it wasn't possible, spent a lot of time leaning on a sword that doubled conveniently as a cane. Contradicting the libretto, he often left the stage when he felt he wasn't needed. He even managed to sip water between arias. Ultimately, this perilous adventure became a grand night for singing - and a grand night for self-indulgence.

The Met did its lavish best to validate the star turn in four short acts and three long intermissions. James Levine, about to celebrate his 25th anniversary at Lincoln Center conducted with the sort of enlightened commitment that actually makes the tawdry sound noble. Nicolas Joel staged the proceedings deftly within Hubert Monloup's spacious decors, tracing an elegant line between prop and symbol, stylization and surrealism.

Aprile Millo, apparently enjoying a vocal rehabilitation, complemented Pavarotti as a Maddalena of radiant pathos supported by good prima-donna manners. Juan Pons introduced a tough and brash Carlo Gerard whose baritone clouded under pressure at the top.

As has become happily customary at the Met, the supporting cast revealed strength in depth. Larissa Diadkova, a leading mezzo-soprano at the Kirov in St. Petersburg, capitalized on the shameless tear-jerking allotted Madelon, the blind matriarch who sacrifices her grandson to the Revolution. Michel Senéchal brought much voice and much wit to the sly insinuations of the spy oddly named Incredible. John Del Carlo loomed as an imposingly bluff and hearty Mathieu.

Rosalind Elias, who had played the voluptuous maid Bersi back in the Del Monaco era, is now especially poignant as an especially decadent Countess. Wendy White, the current Bersi, is pleasantly pert and gutsy. Christopher Schaldenbrand as the foppish Fléville and Kim Josephson as the sympathetic Roucher suggest that the bona fide lyric baritone may not be an extinct species after all.

This "Andrea Chenier" returns in the fall to open the next Met season, lock, stock and Pavarotti. For reasons unknown, however, Millo will be succeeded by Maria Guleghina. The verismo agonies and ecstasies continue.

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