Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

in the first division

extraordinary by any standards

An excellent disc

a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26

Just enjoy it!

La Mer Ticciati








Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Andrea Chénier - historical drama in four acts (1896)
Andrea Chénier - José Cura; Maddalena di Coigny - Maria Guleghina; Carlo Gérard - Carlo Guelfi; Bersi - Giacinta Nicotra; La Contessa di Coigny - Cinzia De Mola; Madelon - Annie Vavrille; Roucher - Carlo Cigni; Il romanziero - Armando Ariostini; Fouquier-Tinville - Giuseppe Guidi; Mathieu - Mario Bellanova; Un Incredibile - Pierre Lefebvre; The Abbé - Stefano Pisani; Schmidt - Atfeh Ziyan; The major-domo - Mauro Marchetto; Dumas - Michele Castagnaro
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Carlo Rizzi
Directed by Giancarlo del Monaco
Directed for video by Paola Langobardo
rec. live, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, 2006
Picture format: 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: PCM stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1
Region code: 0
ARTHAUS MUSIK 107287 [123:00]

Experience Classicsonline

Unless you’ve made a close study of the history of the French Revolution, the story of Andrea Chenier as penned by Giordano’s librettist Luigi Illica can be more than a little confusing. Although what we have here is essentially a simple love triangle, Illica’s predilection for repeatedly throwing in historical references to long forgotten personalities (Necker? Tallien? Dumouriez?), political factions (Girondins?) and social phenomena of the period (merveilleuses?) can easily distract a modern audience from the essential plot.
Thankfully, this particular production keeps everything as clear and simple as possible and it will certainly appeal to anyone who found the recently issued DVD of the Bregenz Festival’s 2011 Andrea Chénier (see here) just a little bit too off the wall.
Apart from its clarity, the biggest assets are the three leading singers. In an age when many cleverly promoted vocalists are perceived by the public as “opera stars” even though they’ve never actually performed in a full stage production, José Cura is the real thing and undeniably one of today’s most exciting operatic tenors. I was justifiably taken with his Turiddu/Canio in Arthaus Musik’s Cav and Pag double bill from a couple of years back (see here) and this is another performance in the same league. In the first Act he commands the stage from a passionately delivered Un di, all' azzuro onwards. After that neither Maddalena nor the theatre audience can resist his appeal. Later on, Cura takes full advantage of all the show-stopping opportunities that have made the opera a favourite with those tenors with the self confidence (or self regard) to take it on. Radiating immense charisma and intensity, he has a great stage presence - especially once he has discarded the Act 1 ancien regime’s sartorial fripperiesin favour of the more fetchingly heroic costumes of the Revolutionary era.
Some great tenors of the past certainly usedAndrea Chénier as a vehicle to showcase their own stardom. The stentorian Mario Del Monaco, in particular, often faces that accusation, though when he is paired with an equally powerful Maddalena such as Renata Tebaldi (they may be seen together in two DVD performances - Bel Canto Society BCS-D0003 from 1955 and VAI 4419 from six years later - and heard on Decca CD set 425 407-2) the results are undeniably spectacular.
Jose Cura is, though, a generous performer who recognises very sensibly that the presence of other strong singers on stage will serve only to enhance his own performance. Fortunately, Maria Guleghina (Maddalena) and Carlo Guelfi (Gerard) are also very skilled, both vocally and in their acting. The beauty of Guleghina’s voice is apparent from her first entrance and she lives her part most convincingly, from her coquettish teasing in the first act to her renunciation of life for the sake of love in the last: watch how, in their Act 2 duet, she pays close attention to Cura’s words and gestures and reacts utterly appropriately and convincingly.
Gerard’s character is a more complex one than Maddalena’s, buffeted as he is by a range of conflicting emotions from the very start. Carlo Guelfi, an immensely strong presence on the Bologna stage, expresses that inner complexity and tension very well and makes his character the opera’s real centrepiece. In Act 3, his self-questioning monologue is very affectingly done and the revelation of his long-suppressed feelings in his subsequent duet with Maddalena is - as it ought to be - a real dramatic highpoint, capped by the soprano’s powerful La mamma morta
Supporting roles are very well taken, too. Cinzia De Mola offers us a Countess di Coigny who would be quite enough on her own to justify the oncoming downfall of the French aristocracy. Her idea of a ball for her preening, mincing friends is not just a decorous minuet or two but a cabaret appearance by a naked god Pan dancing lasciviously with his nymphs in a sort of early version of a bunga-bunga party.
Giacinta Nicotra makes a strong impression as Maddalena’s loyal servant Bersi, as does Carlo Cigni as Chénier’s friend Roucher. I also enjoyed Pierre Lefebvre’s Uriah Heep-like portrayal of the police spy, while Annie Vavrille, singing the role of the old woman Madelon, makes a positive and powerful contribution - even if her supposedly 15 years old grandson looks here rather more like a twenty-something toy-boy.
In fact, my few quibbles focus on the contribution of Giancarlo del Monaco - the son, incidentally, of the aforementioned tenor Mario Del Monaco, even though he differentiates himself with a lower-case “d” in “del”. In this production he combines the functions of stage director, set and costume designer and, while I like the attractive and often eye-catching costumes, the set and what happens on it are, at times, a little more questionable.
The busier, more detailed sets work best. Act 1 boasts an impressive mini Hall of Mirrors in beautifully muted pastels (echoed in the costumes) and Act 3’s courtroom set, in which scaffolding for the peasant jury is set up in the midst of a palatial gilded ballroom, is equally striking. The opening of the third act, set in Gerard’s office, and the final gaol scene are both disappointingly rather sparse and impressionistically conceived.
Stage direction is generally convincing, although Act 2’s procession of revolutionary heroes (“You see the last one? Robespierre’s little brother”) is consigned so far to the rear of the stage that it’s hard to see exactly what is going on: the Bregenz production works better as the dignitaries move diagonally across an area nearer the front. Other than that, I liked the way that the crowd scenes were marshalled - even though it looks odd to my eyes to see soldiers, rather than horses, drawing the condemned prisoners’ tumbrels. Perhaps stage logistics or sheer cost precluded using real animals?
As is often the case these days, stage action occasionally conflicts with the words that we are hearing. Thus, towards the end of the first act, it seems nonsense for the countess to angrily exclaim “Who let that lot in? Out with that rabble!" when the peasant “horde” interrupting her party consists of just one man carrying in his arms the corpse of a boy. Similarly, in the opera’s final moments, we hear a gaoler summoning Chénier and Maddalena to their execution and the couple affirming their eagerness to go willingly for the sake of their mutual love. You might therefore reasonably expect to see them climbing into a (no doubt soldier-drawn) tumbrel or at least just disappearing off into the wings. But what we actually see as the curtain falls is the lovers determinedly climbing a good 10 or 12 feet vertically up the bars of their cell that are ranged across the front of the stage. If that isn’t a belated attempt at a prison break, perhaps it symbolises their ascent to heaven? It’s also an unnecessary bit of directorial affectation that left me rather bemused when I ought, rather, to have been emotionally overwhelmed, both by the emotional drama and by Giordano’s tremendously uplifting final duet (“In our death, love triumphs!”)
In that duet - and in fact all through the opera, by the way - the singers are well supported by an orchestra that plays idiomatically and to the manner-born. They are very well directed, as one would expect, by the experienced Carlo Rizzi.
The television/video directing is also generally fine, although I am surprised that no-one seemed to notice when, at about 40:13 in Act 2, a poorly chosen camera angle gives us a glimpse of an actor waiting in the wings. If we really were in Revolutionary times, the cameraman responsible would, without the slightest doubt, have been en route for the guillotine before you could even begin to say merveilleuses.
Rob Maynard



































































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.