Royal Opera House
Runs: 205 mins. 2 x 25 min intervals
Box Office: 020 7304 4000
Review by: Ian Spiby. Perf. seen 17 February 2017:
In his seminal 1968 book on theatre, The Empty Space, Peter Brook outlines various forms of theatre, one of which is the Deadly Theatre. And the current production of Adriana Lecouvreur, the story of the great French actress, seems to fit neatly into that category. It has a “mediocre author”, in this case, the composer Francesco Cilea whose music is largely undistinguished, apart from a couple of arias that appear regularly on recital discs. It has high production values with a distinguished creative team – but is basically dull. Brook claims that the audience attending Deadly Theatre needs to be a bit bored in order to deceive themselves into thinking they are attending a worthy cultural experience.
David McVicar, a director for whom I have the greatest possible respect, has set himself the Sisyphean task of creating opera productions with genuine feeling and meaning. Together with set designer, Charles Edwards and costume designer Brigitte Reiffenstuel, he has created a replica of an eighteenth century theatre, spectacular in its effect and of immense interest to anyone interested in the history of theatre. His entire cast, too, appear to know what they are doing and why they are doing it. The musical standards are generally high. So what was missing?
I think the answer is that at heart, it was basically hollow. And here, much of the blame must rest with the central character of Adriana, played by Angela Gheorghiu. It is no secret that Ms Gheorghiu is possessed of a high opinion of herself. She gave the impression that she thinks that she is as great a performer as the real Adriana Lecouvreur was – and she isn’t. Nothing she did on stage appeared to have any emotional truth – she minced and simpered her way round the stage and held her voice severely in check almost throughout. But the real weakness came to light during what must be the highlight of the opera – when she recites (not sings) a speech from Racine’s Phedre in order to discomfort her rival in love. This could have been a thrilling episode if she had adopted the formal declamatory style and baroque gestures of the Comedie Francaise. But instead she stood with her arms in the air and … well… bleated.
An example of huge amounts of money being poured into a flagship production but with diminishing returns.
Michonnet: Gerald Finley
Adriana Lecouvreur: Angela Gheorghiu
Maurizio: Brian Jagde
Princesse de Bouillon: Ksenia Dudnikova
Conductor: Daniel Oren
Director: David McVicar
Revival Director: Justin Way
Set Designer: Charles Edwards
Costume Designer Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Lighting Designer: Adam Silverman
Choreography and Movement: Andrew George
Revival Choreographer Adam Pudney
Royal Opera House Chorus
Chorus Director: William Spaulding
Performances continue until 2 March 2017