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Andrea Chénier

on November 30, 2022
This is the page for the performance on November 30, 2022.
Music Umberto Giordano Text Luigi Illica


Cast 30.11.2022

Conductor Francesco Lanzillotta
Director Otto Schenk
Stage Design Rolf Glittenberg
Costume Design Milena Canonero
Andrea Chénier Jonas Kaufmann
Carlo Gérard George Petean
Maddalena di Coigny Maria Agresta
Bersi Isabel Signoret
Gräfin di Coigny Stephanie Houtzeel
Madelon Monika Bohinec
Roucher Michael Arivony
Pietro Fléville Jack Lee
Fouquier Tinville Stephano Park
Mathieu Wolfgang Bankl
Abbé Andrea Giovannini
Incroyable Carlos Osuna
Haushofmeister Marcus Pelz
Dumas Marcus Pelz
Schmidt Jusung Gabriel Park


It is without a doubt - also - a »tenor opera«, which hardly any great let escape. In Vienna alone: Bergonzi, Bonisolli, Corelli, Di Stefano, Domingo, Carreras, Pavarotti, Botha and many others. Of course also: Jonas Kaufmann. In 2018, he sang here for the first time the role of the revolutionary poet who, under Robespierre's reign of terror, was to live with his Maddalena, a noblewoman, to his death. Now Kaufmann stands is back on the State Opera stage in Umberto Giordano's veristic opera. At his side role debutante Maria Agresta as Maddalena and Carlos Álvarez as Carlo Gérard.

Giordano's opera takes place during the French Revolution. The poet Chénier, the noblewoman Maddalena and Carlo, a supporter of the revolution are entangled in a love triangle. Although Giordano's opera - tragically ending with the execution of the lovers Maddalena and Chénier - refers to a historical figure, the storyline is mainly imaginary. The opera premiered in 1896 in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala and was a huge success from the very first performance. Enthusiasm spread worldwide immediately. Still today, Giordano's masterpiece is considered as a major work of the operatic repertoire.


Scene 1

The palace of the Comtesse de Coigny is being prepared for a sumptuous soirée during the final days of the Ancien Régime. Carlo Gérard, valet de chambre and son of the elderly gardener, vociferously expresses his hatred of aristocratic society and its superficial world. The Comtesse de Coigny appears with her daughter Maddalena, with whom Gérard is hopelessly in love. They are accompanied by Bersi, confidante and maid. The comtesse reproaches her daughter, who has not yet dressed for the party. In conversation with Bersi, Maddalena discloses how tiresome she finds modern fashion and the foolish behavior of the aristocracy.

The guests start to arrive, and the celebration commences. There is an entertainment in rococo style in which Pietro Fléville, a vainglorious novelist, and the Abbé monopolize the conversation. Talk centres on the revolution which is allegedly imminent. However, nobody takes the matter very seriously. The young poet Andrea Chénier, a guest of Fléville’s, is introduced. The comtesse asks him to recite some of his poetry, but Chénier declines to do so. Maddalena makes a bet with her friends that she will be able to make Andrea change his mind. She provokes him by expecting him to sing the praises of love. However, Andrea’s reaction to this challenge is to extol his fatherland and the new principles of freedom and humanity in a harsh political accusation.

Chénier has caused a scandal, and the company is outraged. Only Maddalena and Gérard agree with Chénier. Inspired by Andrea’s courageous sang, Gérard leads a crowd of starving peasants into the salon. The peasants lament their fate. When the comtesse takes him to task, Gérard gets quite carried away and shocks her with slogans of the revolution. He accuses the comtesse of holding her celebrations at the expense of the poor and declares himself on the side of the oppressed. The comtesse dismisses Gérard on the spot. However, the party continues.

Scene 2

The Revolution has degenerated into Robespierre’s reign of terror. People live in fear of the Revolutionary Tribunal, the death sentence, and the guillotine. Gérard has been promoted to the Chamber of Deputies. Andrea, though he had previously extolled the ideals of the revolution, is now suspected of counter-revolutionary activities and is being watched by the police. Maddalena has taken refuge with Bersi, and she, too, is being persecuted. Gérard is still consumed by his unhappy love for her. In front of the Café Hottot near the Seine an Incroyable, a police informer charged with searching for Maddalena, is trying to provoke Bersi. The latter is obliged to walk the streets in order to be able to feed her former mistress. Half seriously, half cynically, Bersi pretends to be a real daughter of the Revolution, maintaining that she feels quite at home in this milieu. However, the Incroyable becomes suspicious when he notices Bersi and Andrea exchanging glances. Chénier is joined by his friend Roucher, who advises him to leave the capital as quickly as possible as his name is already on the Public Prosecutor’s list. But Andrea is bewildered by sparkling, anonymous letters from a mysterious lady which have awoken in him for the first time the feeling of true love and refuses to leave the city. Roucher attempts to convince him that the letters can only come from a merveilleuse, one of the streetwalkers of the time, and hands him a pass. Andrea, however, is determined first to find the writer of the letters. Bersi also begs him to wait for a lady who is in great danger. The Incroyable, who has also been hired by Gérard to look for Maddalena, draws his own conclusions: Chénier – suspected of being a counter-revolutionary – has been receiving messages from Bersi, who, though reduced to being a street-walker, was once Maddalena’s confidante – and thus an aristocrat: Andrea and Maddalena must therefore be conspirators.

Andrea recognizes the lady whom Bersi has talked of as Maddalena, who also admits to being the author of the mysterious letters. She teils him how Bersi has sheltered her; however, now they are on her trail. She asks Andrea for protection, although she knows that he, too, is in danger. The couple declare their love for one another. They swear to be faithful until death and decide to flee.

Suddenly Gérard appears, having been summoned by the Incroyable, who has betrayed the couple. Roucher escapes with Maddalena. Chénier draws a dagger which he has concealed in his walking stick and wounds Gérard with it. The Incroyable tries to pursue the fleeting couple, but Roucher threatens him with a pistol. Although he has been wounded, Gérard has not completely forgotten his previous sympathy for Andrea, nor his frustrated love for Maddalena. He helps Andrea to flee – however, Chénier’s name is already on the list of Public Prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville.

Scene 3

In the Committee of Public Safety Mathieu stirs up the people against the enemies of the Revolution, for the fatherland is endangered. In a fierce speech Gérard, who has recovered from his injury, calls on the people to be prepared to make sacrifices if necessary: the whole of Europe is against the French. The women sacrifice their jewelry, the fathers their wages, the mothers their sons. The old, blind Madelon is lead in by her grandson. Her son Roger, she says, fell in the storming of the Bastille and her eldest son lies buried near Valmy. She has now come to offer the services of the young boy leading her for the fatherland.

Whilst the exuberant crowd is dancing the carmagnole, the Incroyable reports to Gérard that Chénier has been arrested at a friend’s house. He assures him that there is no need to worry about Maddalena: she will soon turn up of her own accord in the hope of rescuing her loved one. He asks Gérard to specify the charge, as Fouquier-Tinville is waiting. Gérard hesitates, and the Incroyable urges him to sign. In despair Gérard realizes that the ideals of the Revolution for which he fought – the noble intention of helping the poor and oppressed – have turned into depravity, lies and hate. Gérard is conscience-stricken, particularly as he himself – tormented by his frustrated love – has also become a traitor and maligner.

Maddalena turns up just as the Incroyable predicted she would. Gérard confesses how much he loves her, and how he has loved her ever since the time when they played together as children in the palace gardens. But the hopelessness of ever being able to possess her has made him betray Chénier. Maddalena rejects his renewed advances, saying she would rather face death. Then, as she despondently remembers her mother, who has been murdered, and the palace, which has been reduced to ashes, and Bersi, who has been selling herself for her sake, she offers Gérard her own body in the hope of saving Andrea. Gérard is deeply moved by this gesture. He declares his readiness to attempt a rescue of Chénier himself.

The crowd is enjoying the spectacle of tribunal trying alleged traitors to the Revolution. They are all executed without being given a chance to defend themselves. Only Chénier is given an opportunity of saying his last words and defends himself valiantly. Gérard admits that he has betrayed him and wants to withdraw the charge. However, the crowd clamors for his death. Andrea Chénier is condemned to death by the guillotine.

Scene 4

In the courtyard of the prison of St. Lazare, which before the Revolution was the monastery of Saint Vincent de Paul, Andrea commits his last poem to paper. He sings the song to his friend Roucher, a prisoner like himself. It is a hymn to poetry, in whose arms he is about to die.

The jailor admits Maddalena and Gérard to the prison. Gérard has obtained permission for Maddalena to talk to Andrea for the last time. In return for gold and jewelry she persuades the jailor to let her take the place of Idia Legray, a prisoner condemned to death. Thus, she will be able to perish at Andrea’s side. Gérard, whose tragic love has made him agree to this fateful solution, is prepared to make one further attempt at rescue – the last: Robespierre will have to help!

Maddalena and Andrea talk with one another for the last time. It is only a temporary parting, for both die in the certainty that after death they will be reunited in a new life. The jailor calls out two names: Andrea Chénier and Idia Legray. Gérard’s last attempt at rescue has been in vain.