ANDREA CHENIER, A POPULAR OPERA
A verisimo opera in four acts by Italian composer Umberto Giordano and sung to a libretto by Luigi Illica, the story is based on the real life of a French poet, Andrea Chénier who was executed in the days of the French Revolution. Though not performed as often now, the opera remains a highly popular work with audiences who enjoy the dramatic music and lyrics written by Giordano for the leading tenor. A wonderful chance for singers to show off their exceptional vocal skills, the tenor Giuseppe Borgatti was catapulted to the top echelon of Italian opera singers thanks to his magnificent portrayal of the role.
Set in and around Paris in the period 1789-94, the opera is based on the life of a popular poet at the time of the French Revolution. Chénier is increasingly affected by the suffering of the poor in the turbulent society of his times, and comes under scrutiny. Maddalena the daughter of the Countess is known as 'Speranza' or hope, she pleads for Chénier's life after he is trapped and arrested, but to no avail. Although Gérard admits that he had Chénier accused because he too is in love with Maddalena, Robespierre refuses to pardon him. Maddalena changes places with an imprisoned noblewoman and goes to the guillotine in her place at Chénier's side.
At a ball at the home of the Countess of Coigny, Chénier meets her daughter Maddalena after she gets him to recite poetry containing the word 'love' as a bet. Chénier becomes enraged and sings of the suffering of the poor. He appears with a crowd of beggars asking for food, and the Countess has him removed, comforting herself with thoughts of her gifts to charity.
Now a merveilleuse, Bersi who was Maddalena's former serving girl chats with an Incroyable, or spy in a cafe in Paris. She jokes that she has nothing to hide. The Incroyable sees a blonde lady and notes that Chénier was seated at a nearby table. Robespierre passes with a former servant, Gérard who comes into the cafe in search of the blonde. The Incroyable tell him that she will return to the cafe that night. A hooded woman enters the cafe. It is Maddalena, known now as 'Speranza' or hope. Gérard accosts them and wounds Chénier in a sword fight.
The Revolutionary Tribunal find Chénier guilty. Maddalena cries for justice, telling how the mob has burned down her mothers palace and left it in ruins.
Gérard's admits that it was he who had Chénier arrested to clear the way to Maddalena who he has always loved. Maddalena tries to give herself to Gérard in return for Chénier's life. Despite trying to take back his accusations, Gérard can not save Chénier and he is sentenced to death.
Gérard's pleas for justice fall on deaf ears and Robespierre refuses to pardon the poet Chénier. Maddalena exchanges places with a condemned noblewoman and goes to the guillotine with Chénier in her place.
Andrea Chénier - popular poet - tenor
Carlo Gérard - servant - baritone
Maddalena de Coigny - soprano
Bersi - maid to Maddalena - mezzo-soprano
The Incredible - a spy for Robespierre - tenor