August 17, 2016

Antonio Pappano conducts 'Andrea Chénier': coming soon to DVD and Blu-Ray

The revolutionary 2015 Covent Garden production features Jonas Kaufmann in the title role and Eva-Maria Westbroek.

Giordano's Andrea Chénier, first seen in Milan in 1896, is loosely based on the life of the poet André Chénier, born in Constantinople in 1762. Caught up in the turmoil of the French Revolution, in 1794 he became one of Robespierre’s last victims during the Reign of Terror. In the opera, Andrea falls in love with an aristocrat, Maddalena di Coigny, whom he first meets at her mother’s château in Act 1, which takes place in the earliest days of the Revolution. His rival for Maddalena’s love is Carlo Gérard, a servant in the Coigny household who goes on to become a powerful revolutionary.

In September, Warner Classics releases the 2015 Covent Garden production of Giordano's Romantic masterpiece on DVD and Blu-Ray. This "scrupulously researched and exquisitely realised production" (The Independent), directed by Sir David McVicar, is an operatic spectacle in the grand tradition, with a large cast, atmospheric decor, lavish costumes and expansive emotions.

At the podium for Covent Garden's first production of the opera in 30 years, was Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House. The New York Times praised his interpretation of Giordano’s gripping score as “dynamically alive to every possibility”, adding that: “Like many a Pappano night at Covent Garden, it suggested a conductor in command of everything he undertakes, whatever period, style or provenance.”

The title role in Giordano’s opera Andrea Chénier, an epic of the French Revolution, demands much of a star tenor. As might be expected, in his debut as Chénier, Jonas Kaufmann rose superbly to the challenge. The Financial Times, having likened Kaufmann to a portrait by the Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David, said: “He has never sounded better...His dark tenor smoulders with the heat of a poet’s unfulfilled ardour and his top notes ring out effortlessly.”

The role of Maddalena is taken by the rich-voiced and impassioned Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek, a favourite at Covent Garden in works by Puccini and his contemporaries, while the emotionally conflicted Gérard is sung by the charismatic and vocally authoritative Serbian baritone Zeljko Lučić, who received "the biggest ovation" and "hit the bullseye" (The Telegraph) in "a beautifully sung, handsomely acted portrait of a revolutionary politician". (The Guardian.)

The impressive supporting cast includes three powerful mezzo-sopranos: Denyce Graves, glamorous of presence and timbre as Maddalena’s faithful maid Bersi; Rosalind Plowright (who, as a soprano in the 1980s, sang Maddalena to José Carreras’ Chénier at the Royal Opera House) is the Contessa di Coigny, and the compelling Elena Zilio takes the role of old Madelon, who sends her grandson to fight for the Revolution.

With all these crucial musical and scenic elements in place, this is just the kind of full-blooded performance that brings the sweeping drama of Andrea Chénier irresistibly to life.

Andrea Chénier from Covent Garden, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring Jonas Kaufmann, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Zeljko Lučić, will be available in September on Warner Classics on DVD and Blu-Ray.