Tuesday, 29 March 2016

A thrilling Chénier (ON/Chénier)

Umberto Giordano, Andrea Chénier (Orchestra Opera North, cond. Oliver von Dohnányi). 

The final opera of the week, Andrea Chénier (11th March) was a real tour de force. I had been concerned after seeing the lavish production last year at Covent Garden with dream cast of Jonas Kaufmann and Eva Maria-Westbroek (note), this would compare very unfavourably. Absolutely not, and in many ways surpassed it. By removing the literal trappings of the late C18th, the harshess and terror of the age was brought out. 
Rafael Rojas as Andrea Chénier and Annemarie Kremer as Maddelena. Photo Credit: Robert Workman/Opera North
The staging saw echoes of the period but cast as almost early gothic. The three back walls were constructed by chainmail hanging the full height of the stage (the weight almost incalculable). Through these the sans culottes thrust their hands twice: when they interrupt the salon at the start, and again at the end as the mob satisfied its lust for blood. This was – not in that sense alone – a deeper reading of the terror in psychological terms of a nation traumatised by its revolution and bloody excesses. The staging was, on the whole, less important, and the music – from the pit and the stage – placed centre-stage. It is easy to decry Giordano’s score as something of a pot-boiler or second-rate, but it packs many good tunes and carries the drama apace. Volume and thrust were applied not dissimilarly to Pappano’s version. There were, in contrast to the Friday evening, no problems of audibility. This was a deeply moving evening. Rojas as poet seemed to know no vocal bounds, and his lover Maddalena de Coigny Annemarie Kremer’s singing was strikingly beautiful too. Fiona Kimm strode the stage as Contessa di Coigny with the presence her aristocratic status commanded, and provided some impressive acting as well as signing over the evening. Carlo Gérard Robert Hayward.
Fiona Kimm as Contessa di Coigny. Photo Credit: Robert Workman/Opera North
Overall: first water. This company is surely ready for its ambitious Ring project in the summer.

Programme prices: the £5 programmes are out of control with Opera North – they need to sort this. £15 over the week for three small programmes.

Cast and creative team
Andrea Chénier Rafael Rojas
Carlo Gérard Robert Hayward
Maddalena de Coigny Annemarie Kremer
Bersi Anna Dennis
Contessa di Coigny/ Madelon Fiona Kimm
Roucher Phillip Rhodes
L’Abate/ an ‘Incroyable’ Daniel Norman
Mathieu Jeremy Peaker
Schmidt Ross McInroy
Dumas Garrick Forbes
Pietro Fléville / Fouquier-Tinville Dean Robinson
Conductor Oliver von Dohnányi
Director Annabel Arden
Set and Costume Designer Joanna Parker
Lighting Designer Peter Mumford
Video Designer Dick Straker
Sound Designer Pete Malkin
Movement Director Tim Claydon

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