Monday, November 28, 2011

Andrea Chénier-A Verisimo Opera

As an opera, Andrea Chénier is expected to not onlyentertain the audience with the music and talent of the performers but also totell a heroic story that ended cruelty and injustices.
According to Wikipedia, the opera was firstperformed in Teatro alla Scala, Milan on 28 March 1896.Since then, each generation has their own version of casting and production. Thereason why the opera stayed is because of the brilliant music and the greatlyrics provided by Giordano. It is called a “verisimo” opera because it isbased on the reality.

      a.     Casting

The audience can onlyunderstand the characters and their roles in the story through the smartselection of casting. Over the years, the casts of Andrea Chénier opera showcase real talent andperformed from the heart.

With under two hours of music, it is not easy to select casts of about15 characters. It is in the hand of the production team to come up with a greatlist of casting that could be able to satisfy the expectation of the audience.

The main role, Andre Chénier, is a very good opportunity for the artistto showcase the skill and flaunt of voice. The artist has performedpassionately and dramatically. As an audience, I can say that the artist isvery credible to perform the main role. It is also a big factor that he enjoyedthe piece and the role.

As a leading lady in the play, there’s a pressure in the role ofMaddalena. As an audience, I have a lot of expectations for the artist who willplay this role. It is important also that the production must decide properlyand select the right artist to play this role. As I’ve watched the opera, I cansay that the artist has provided a strongperformance. She was able to act her way from being a simple beauty to being anultimate leading lady to Andre Chénier. Aside from that, the character of Maddalena possesses a verybeautiful and clear voice.

Anothercast worth noting is the artist who played the role of Gérard. He is the protagonist of the story. His isthe most awkward role of all. He started as the servant of Maddalena’s familyand later on become an activist together with Andre. I admired the artist whoplayed the role of Gérard. He was able to portrayGérard’s character as a man driven by his resentments and passion. He also useshis strong voice to give justice to the role.

Some casts who performed in the small role had also appeared with dramatic virtues and powerful voices. The story of Andre Chénier is a very powerful piece for an opera. Ifcoupled with a balanced casting, this repertory piece will come out strong andinfluential.

      b.     Performance

Being a part of theAndre Chénier opera is an opportunityfor the artist to showcase not only their dramatic skill but also theirpowerful voice and the convincing approach. Throughout the years, the opera hasbeen performed from one country to another and in different generation.
Performance wise, I can say that the artists have properly related thestory in a way that it conforms to standard expectations ofwhat really Italian opera is like, and it clearly belongs to its time andplace, Italy in 1896. Modern performers of the opera may not know how people inItaly do things during this year, but they are professional enough to act. Thesmooth performance, in no doubt, has brought as back to the time and place ofthe said event.

Aside from the abilityto tell a story with movement and costume, the power of this opera lies on thepowerful voices of the artists especially the one who played the role of AndreChénier. As a main cast of the opera,he owns the stage when he performed and gave way to other characters when it istheir time to perform.

Truly, this opera is a perfect example of using music and art inrepresenting story in an intellectual and artistic manner. Neglecting therelevance of the story and the life of a sweet poet that they are trying toconvey, the whole production and the performance factor itself are sure winner.

      c.      Production 

The costume, the musicand the art are what comprise the production of the opera. There have been alot of versions of this opera, but comparing all these versions, the only thingthat has not changed is the story. Needless to say, the music, the performancesand the aesthetic approach differ.

A recentlypublished book entitled “ANDREA CHÉNIER-Opéraen quatre actes d'Umberto Giordano” by Patrick Guyot reveals thenew production of this at the Bregenz Festival (Austria). According to thebook, the scene is set in water on the banks of Lake Constance. This is indeeda very stunning approach of setting the opera that entails the story thathappened during the French revolution. What they are trying to achieve actuallyis to give audience a “Hollywood” feel when watching the opera and based on thefeedback, the audience really love it.

Back to the previousversions of the opera, the production design and the aesthetic value of theopera did not compromise the relevance of the story.  Watching the opera is just like a time travelfor me. Suddenly, I felt like I was in the era of pre-French Revolution. I’veseen the costume and the way French people fashioned themselves in this era inbooks and some references, but the production team has put all these intoreality. Needless to say, the production brought us to a late-nineteenth-early-twentieth-century.

Of course, part of theproduction is the orchestration. The scoring is very heavy and bold, this issomething that they need to get their teeth into. There are sometimes that thesoloists were concealed by the orchestra especially on the climaxes.Nevertheless, the attentiveness of the orchestra to the conductor’s directionended up in a very superb performance.

The orchestra is verytricky especially on their performance during the opening prelude. Unlike anyother operas I’ve witnessed, the orchestra here did not only play as anaccompanist but rather a part of the production.

I think the success ofthis opera is just a mere result of the proper casting and production design.There’s a power in the story, and what better way to share it is through superbperformance.


  1. I watched lots of stage play and productions in college but never been to an opera show.

    Hi! Thanks for visiting Pink MagaLine! :D

  2. Thank you also for the visit...appreciate it.


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