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Andrea Chenier

Artist Alberto Paoletti
Title Andrea Chenier
Release Date 2006-09-15
Genre Opera > Opera
Copyright © Preiser Records
Country AUSTRIA

Promotion Text

Paperback Opera

ACT ONE: THE BALLROOM OF THE CHÂTEAU DE COIGNY. Preparations are being made for a ball. Gérard, a servant, bitter at the sight of his aged and ailing father, bewails the lot of the poor and denounces the wasteful rich. Impatiently he awaits the outbreak of revolution in France, partly because he is secretly in love with the Countess’ daughter, Madeleine, who herself longs for freedom – freedom from a life of dull aristocratic routine. When the guests have finally gathered, a court pastoral with idealized shepherds and shepherdesses is enacted. Music suggesting the countryside is sung and a ballet pantomime is staged in the stately style of an eighteenth-century idyll. Among the guests is the poet-patriot Andrea Chénier, famous for his gifts of poetic improvisation. The Countess urges Chénier, famous for his gifts of poetic improvisation. The Countess urges Chénier to improvise on some theme of his own choosing. Chénier at first refuses, but yields when Madeleine coquettishly cajoles him, even venturing a suggestion: “Let Chénier improvise on the subject of love.” The poet begins, but soon he reverts to the grave theme of oppression. The song – “Un dí all’ Azzurro spazio” (“Once o’er the azure fields”) – becomes an impromptu tirade against tyranny and a burning plea for the relief of the poor. Bitterly, Chénier flails the pride and apathy of the rich, the wrongs inflicted on the subject classes. A chorus of indignation greets the fiery idealism of Chénier’s Improvisio. Only Madeleine, drawn by the poet’s zeal, is stirred by this new creed. To bring back the festive mood, the Countess commands the musicians to play dance music. Suddenly a clamour is heard outside the ballroom. The door flies open, and a band of ragged men and women burst in, led by Gérard. The intruders are ejected, and Chénier follows them. ACT TWO: THE CAFÈ HOTTOT IN PARIS. The Revolution an accomplished fact, Chénier has now come under suspicion for opposing Robespierre. Spies have been ordered to watch him, and Roucher has come to warn his friend to flee before it is too late. Bersi, Madeleine’s maid, has meanwhile been conversing at a near-by table with a spy. There is an ominous moment as a death cart rolls by on its way to the guillotine. Bersi has handed Chènier a letter from a mysterious unknown, pleading for help and a rendezvous. Chénier refuses to heed his friend’s warning and awaits the stranger. The lady, of course, is Madeleine. They declare their love for one another and prepare to flee together. Word, however, has reached Gérard, now a revolutionary functionary, of the rendezvous. Gérard bursts in on the love scene and attempts to seize madeleine. As the rivals draw swords, Roucher hurries Madeleine away. Gérard is wounded and nobly exhorts Chénier to save himself and Madeleine from their enemies. When Gérard’s friends arrive, they demand the name of the assailant. Gérard pretends not to have recognized him. ACT THREE: THE REVOLUTIONARY TRIBUNAL. Recovered from his wound, Gérard now appears before a revolutionary tribunal with a fervent plea for money for France. A collection is taken up, and jewels are contributed by the women. Madelon, an old woman, steps forward and volunteers her son to the defense of France against her enemies. Amid the mounting mood of patriotism the crowd sings “La Carmagnole”. A spy enters to report Chénier’s arrest to Gérard, who thus has a chance to dispose of a rival and win Madeleine for himself. Yet, as he prepares the official denunciation of Chénier, Gérard hesitates. He recalls the poet`s stirring verses, his espousal of the cause of the poor, his flaming nobility. This man an “enemy of his country” (Nemico della patria”), he asks himself sardonically. Can he sacrifice a friend to satisfy his passion for Madeleine? Gérard broods over the problem in music throbbing with the conflict of honor and desire. Almost cynically the orchestra chants a fragment of “La Marseillaise”. Finally, Gérard yields and signs the fatal document. At this moment madeleine appears. She learns of Chénier’s arrest, and in a touching aria – “La mamma morta” – she tells of her mother`s death and offers herself to Gérard in exchange for Chénier’s freedom. Madeleine’s entreaties having won Gérard over, he vows to help the man she loves. As the trial proceeds, the crowd grows increasingly furious over the charges made against Chénier. There are loud cries of “Death to the traitor!” and against this surging wrath, the poet’s own defense is of no avail. Even Gérard’s eloquent plea that the charges are false proves futile. Gérard embraces the doomed poet, who is dragged away to the crowd’s cries of “À la lanterne”! (“To the scaffold”!) ACT FOUR: THE PRISON OF SAINT-LAZARE. It is midnight in the gloomy cell. Chénier, awaiting execution, is writing his last poem, “Come un bel dì di Maggio” (“As some soft day in May”). As he sings, the poet`s firm belief in truth and beauty seems to mock the prison walls. Roucher listens attentively to his friend’s farewell verses. Madeleine and Gérard now appear. Preferring death with her lover to life without him, she has bribed the jailer to substitute her name for that of another condemned woman. Together the lovers await the last ride together in the death wagon