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Adriana Lecouvreur

Approximate running time


Adriana Lecouvreur is a four-act opera composed by Francesco Cilea. It was first performed in November 1902 in the Milanese theatre, Teatro Lirico, and is based on the 18th century play, Adrienne Lecouvreur.


The play itself is loosely inspired by the life of the French actress, Adrienne Lecouvreur, though the plot of the story is fictional and highly dramatised. There have been at least three other renditions of the play, but Cilea's version is by far the most well known. The themes of love, jealousy and rivalry are what make this opera so popular. The melodious solos and the powerful scores keep the audience enthralled, while the dramatic treatment by the orchestra marks the fast pace of the story.


The story is set against an early 17th century backdrop in Paris. The plot deals with the fatal love triangle involving the actress Adriana, the Count of Saxony, Maurizio and the Princess of Bouillon. It is the rivalry between the two women that leads to the tragic ending of the story. Misunderstandings and interference by the supporting characters also play a part in the story.

Act 1

It opens with the preparations for a performance in which the two rival actresses Adriana and Duclos are to star. The Prince of Bouillon compliments Adriana and her humble reply is a beautiful solo that shows her devotion to her art. Adriana then meets her lover, Maurizio, and gifts him a bouquet of violets. Meanwhile, the prince suspects his mistress, Duclos, of having an affair with Maurizio. He concocts a plan to expose them.

Act 2

gives the audience a clearer idea of the story. Maurizio is revealed as the Count of Saxony. He has been having an affair with the Princess of Bouillon and not with Duclos as believed by the prince. He presents the princess with the same bouquet of violets that Adriana had given him but admits that he no longer loves her. They are interrupted by the prince and Maurizio enlists Adriana's aid in helping the princess escape unseen. Though neither is aware of each other's identity, both women realise that they are rivals in love.

In Act 3

The action of the story reaches a peak. Adriana attends a party at the palace and the princess recognises her voice. The princess talks of Maurizio being wounded in a duel, and Adriana's extreme reaction confirms that she is indeed, his lover. During the ballet that follows, the women confront each other. Adriana sings a passage from Racine's Phèdre which talks about sinful adulteresses. This is a direct challenge to the princess who swears to get her revenge.

Act 4

It brings the events of the story to a dramatic conclusion. Grief-stricken by Maurizio's betrayal, Adriana has retired from stage. Her former colleagues try to persuade her to return to the theatre. Amidst these entreaties, a gift arrives, apparently from Maurizio. It is the same bouquet of violets she had once presented him. She sees the faded violets as a sign that their relationship is over and starts feeling ill and faint. Maurizio comes to make amends and reveals that the flowers were not from him. They realise that the princess sent the poisoned bouquet of violets. Adriana lies dying in Maurizio's arms and her final words are a touching duet with Maurizio.


Adriana Lecouvreur, a leading actress- Soprano
Maurizio, Count of Saxony and Adriana's lover- Tenor
Princess de Bouillon, Adriana's rival in love- Mezzo-Soprano
Prince de Bouillon, Duclos' lover- Bass
Michonnet-, a stage manager in love with Adriana- Baritone

Dramatic and highly entertaining, a performance of Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur makes for a great visit to the opera.

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