Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Andrea Chenier

 Last evening, I attended the Nashville Opera's production of Andrea Chenier.  I browsed through my program before curtain call and noticed that the productions for the year offer well-known classics such as Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro and others, nonetheless, I was pleased that I would be exploring unfamiliar territory in Chenier.

Andrea Chenier is a poet who found his own written words to be at odds with his country's political and social struggles.  While Chenier was well acquainted with aristocratic social circles in the beginning, his battle of words through France's political upheaval both literally and figuratively lead him back to accepting the consequences for his moral conscience of words.  A unique perspective considering that the working class, martyrs and disadvantaged are at the forefront of this story, ala' Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.  Along the way, Chenier falls in love with Maddalena di Coigny, a prominent socialite's daughter who has gone into hiding during the French Revolution. 

While the story is centered on Andrea Chenier, the true drama and weight of emotion is portrayed by Carlos Gerardo, a former servant to the upper crust di Coigny family.   Social roles have reversed and Gerardo has become powerful in his political role within the French Revolution and abuses his power by attempting to force himself upon his former employer, Maddalena di Coigny.  After listening to Maddalena tell of the murder of her mother and the burning of her home, the realization of his newfound power is simply an illusion. 

As with most previews or "final rehearsals," there were a couple of miscues between the orchestra and vocalist(s).  A few misspellings on the subtext screen were glaringly apparent as well.   There were also  some problems with 2 of the male roles being able to comfortably sustain notes in the lower register against an exuberant orchestra.  I couldn't help but wonder if adjustments in blocking and or subduing the orchestra could alleviate this problem.  Then again, many of the singers were wisely saving their voice for opening night.  Let's face it, Nashville in early October can be an overwhelming cocktail for throat issues. 

Kudos to the Nashville Opera for keeping this medium fresh and alive.  I was both amused (at first) and incredibly impressed with the promotion of offering both temporary and permanent Opera tattoo's in the lobby.  It's just one of 30 ways to celebrate the Nashville Opera.  In the land of facebooking, twittering and keeping up with the ever growing technology, the Nashville Opera is doing their part and more.  Interested in providing a school with an intro to Opera?  For more information, click here: Education Programs.

While sitting in the dark watching these cast of characters,  I found myself mesmerized in particular by  Lori Phillips (Maddalena di Coigny).   Prior to last evening's performance, I listened to several arias of this opera to become more acquainted with the story, emotion and characters.  I found the haunting and moving aria "La Mamma Morta," sung by Marie Callas and listened to what I would use (quite unfairly) to benchmark Ms. Phillips' performance.  A very unkind measurement of perfection that would be virtually impossible to overcome.

Phillips' was able to act her part complete with the slightest of gestures, emotional breaks in her voice that reached well into the back of the theater.  The feathery nuances of her restrained voice describing the horrors of her mother's demise grabbed this audience as the power of her chest voice climaxed in revealing a gut-wrenching mournful loss which reverberated throughout Jackson Hall.

I'm not qualified to speculate whether Maria Callas's "La Mamma Morta," was superior to Lori Phillips' version.  I only know that moments such as these which are draped in darkness inside a theater is a gift from the composer.  The stirring of the soul from Lori Phillips' vocal performance is a gift from the singer, complete with star power.


More Musings Later-

1 comment:

Unknown said...

After this stellar, intelligent review, I cannot WAIT to see it Saturday night! Thank you!