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Andrea Chénier (1973)

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Cast overview:
Franco Corelli Franco Corelli ... Andrea Chénier
Celestina Casapietra Celestina Casapietra
Piero Cappuccilli Piero Cappuccilli


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Apart from the lip-synch, this is for me the best Andrea Chenier I've seen so far
1 March 2012 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

I saw this 1973 Andrea Chenier, as an admirer of Franco Corelli, Piero Cappuccilli and Bruno Bartoletti, and as someone who considers Giordano's Andrea Chenier one of the finest examples of Verismo(Puccini opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci and Adriana Lecouvreur) opera there is. Previously, I had seen the productions with Domingo, Tomowa Sintow and Zancanaro and Carreras, Marton and Cappuccilli, and heard the recordings with Domingo, Scotto and Milnes, Corelli, Tebaldi and Bastianini and Del Monaco, Tebaldi and Bastianini, and found much to like about all of them. I admit I have to see more productions of Andrea Chenier, but so far this 1973 performance is the best one.

My only problem with it, and this is more to do with technicalities rather than the performance itself, was the lip-synch, which is quite poor. Fortunately, everything else more than makes amends, because this Andrea Chenier does look exquisite. The photography and picture quality are more than acceptable, fluid and not too faded. The costumes are tailored beautifully, especially with Maddelena, and the settings manage to be aristocratic and to convey a raw mob-rule of the Revolution. The sound does justice to the singers, though while they play with such a fantastic sound throughout there were times where I felt the orchestra were too backwardly-placed.

On a musical note, apart from some of the placement, it is next to faultless. The orchestration is so well blended and rich in tone, which adds a lot to the emotional impact here. I know from the 1976 Tosca, the live 1967 Lucia Di Lammermoor and 2003's La Boheme productions and his recordings of La Gioconda, Manon Lescaut and Un Ballo in Maschera, that Bruno Bartoletti is an excellent conductor with a refined romantic touch. He brings this to especially La Mamma Morta and even to parts of the opera that are still highly charged but not quite knockouts in the way L'Improvviso, La Mamma Morta, Nemica Della Patria and the final scene are.

Singing is every bit as impressive. Franco Corelli is superb in one of his most notable roles. The singing, while much better than his Don Carlo at the Met a year previous to this, is not as nuanced as it was in his prime and in his earlier recording with Tebaldi but it is just as thrilling, with high notes that ring out like a trumpet and well-moulded phrasing. The acting is commanding making the role glamorous and challenging, and even at 52 he is one of the most handsome tenors of the opera stage. L'Improvviso is absolutely riveting with a great sense of storytelling and poetry, and his duets with Casapietra wonderfully sung.

I do think that Renata Tebaldi, one of the most outstanding lyric/spinto sopranos of all time with one of the biggest and most beautiful voices I have heard, striking musicality at whatever dynamic and the best and most moving La Mamma Morta on record, is unrivalled as Maddalena. However, Celestina Casapietra is very poignant in the role, and while Tomowa Sintow and Marton do fine jobs in the role Casapietra is thankfully (for me anyway) not as matronly as them. The voice is wonderful with great musicality and she plays the role with tenderness and intense feeling also in some parts. La Mamma Morta and the final scene are testament to this.

Piero Cappuccilli is at the height of his powers here, one of his best roles alongside Renato, Don Carlos Di Vargas, Germont, Simon Boccanegra and Iago. Carlo Gerard could be seen as the villain of the opera somewhat, but unlike Scarpia and Iago, both as evil incarnate as they come, Carlo Gerard is conflicted and a man with a conscience. Cappuccilli sings with true beauty and an excellent technique(perfect for Verismo and Verdi) with his high register much more free than his performance 12 years later, and his acting showing Gerard's conflict I think will perhaps show people who criticise him for being stolid that he is capable of being much more than he's thought to be.

Overall, a brilliant Andrea Chenier and apart from the lip-synch the best I've seen thus far. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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