Chelsea Opera Group is set to bring a concert performance of Giordano’s verismo – Italian for realist – four-act opera Andrea Chénier (1896) to the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s Southbank Centre on 29 May.
The opera is loosely based on the life of André-Marie de Chénier, a Parisian poet and political journalist, who was executed in 1794 during the French Revolution.
The plot opens with the poet Andrea Chénier as he attends a party at the Contessa de Coigny’s mansion. He expresses outrage at the corruption in King Louis XVI’s government and the poverty of many Frenchmen. His words move the Countess’s daughter Maddalena, and inspire the footman and revolutionary-in-the-making Carlo Gérard to quit his servitude. Soon after, the French Revolution begins.
Five years on, Louis XVI has been executed, the Jacobin party are in power and their leader Robespierre has imposed ‘The Terror’. Gérard has become a leading Jacobin, but Chénier has fallen out of favour with the authorities and his life is in danger – he must leave the capital.
However, he delays his flight from Paris to meet a mysterious woman who has written to him. She reveals herself to be Maddalena de Coigny, and the pair realise they are in love. However, Gérard also desires Maddalena. When Chénier is arrested by the authorities, Gérard recognises that he now has the power to destroy the man who once inspired him. As his conscience is tested, so too is the love of Andrea and Maddalena.
The work is particularly known for the lyrical-dramatic music provided by Giordano for the tenor lead and this new production from Chelsea Opera Group stars Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones in the title role. The cast also includes English soprano Claire Rutter as Maddalena and British mezzo-soprano Fiona Kimm as her mother, the Contessa. Gianluca Marcianò conducts the Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra.
This one-off performance of Andrea Chénier takes place at 6pm on 29 May. Tickets are on sale now and cost from £15. It is performed in Italian with English surtitles. The run time is approximately 150 minutes. A free pre-concert talk for ticket holders will take place in Queen Elizabeth Hall at 4.45pm; Professor Simon Bainbridge leads the discussion.
Audiences can also watch orchestra and chorus rehearsals for the opera. These take place throughout May and full date and venue information can be found on Chelsea Opera Group’s website.
“Andrea Chénier provides a notable vehicle for a charismatic tenor and we are delighted to welcome Gwyn Hughes Jones as Chénier, along with an exciting cast that also includes Claire Rutter, Yvonne Howard and Fiona Kimm,” Chelsea Opera Group said in a statement.
“Fiona has a remarkable connection with this story in that, part French herself, she is directly descended from French aristocrats who fell victim to the guillotine. The conductor is Gianluca Marcianò, COG’s artistic director, who led us in several great performances earlier in his career. We are delighted to have him back!”
Chelsea Opera Group specialises in reviving neglected works and uncommon versions of more well-known favourites. Umberto Giordano was a well-respected and prolific composer of operas during his lifetime. However, most of his works are largely forgotten today. Andrea Chénier is alone among his works to have achieved a lasting place in the operatic repertoire.
Chelsea Opera Group’s recently appointed artistic director Gianluca Marcianò picks up his baton to conduct the Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra in a new production of Andrea Chénier at the Southbank Centre in May.