ANDREA CHÉNIER | London, Royal Opera House

Despite its dynamite subject matter — a love triangle between a poet, a revolutionary and an aristocrat in revolutionary France — Andrea Chenier remains a difficult opera to get right. Giordano’s score lives and dies on the quality of its singers and musicians: luckily, in this revival of David McVicar’s 2015 production, we are spoiled.

Roberto Alanya is in full fettle in the title role; his voice navigates the peaks and troughs of this challenging spinto role with grace. He is at his best in the soaring heights of ‘Un du all’azzurro spazio’, and in the beautiful duet ‘Ecco l’altare’ with Sondra Radvanovsky’s vigorous Maddalena. Both voices, bright and rich, meld together seamlessly throughout and they achieve a thrilling sublimity in the moving climax — as the lovers pledge their eternal love, en route to the guillotine.

Dimitri Platanias is a pugnacious force as servant-turned-revolutionary Gerard. His baritone is remarkable for its expressive weight, particularly in his superbly drawn rendition of ‘Nemico della patria’. In the swelling dissonances of the third act, Daniel Oren conducts with particular zeal, drawing out the restless leaps of the score.

At times, the acting can seem mannered. Notable exceptions to this general trend were Christine Rice’s charismatic Bersi and Elena Zilio’s magnetic Madelon; both performances exuding stage presence and both women totally embodying the emotional turmoil of their characters.

William Spauding directs the chorus with acuity. In fact, in their accompaniment of the beautiful first act ballet, the musicianship of the chorus and orchestra threatens to elevate what should be the epitome of kitsch excess, into genuine pathos. It is in its set pieces, choral work, and the brio of the orchestral performance that this production shines.

Andrea Chénier is playing until 9 June 2019.

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