Adriana Lecouvreur at the Liceu: Less Sincere is the Truth

Xl_adriana_lecouvreur_gran-teatre-del-liceu_06 © Gran Teatre del Liceu / Sergi Panizo

Adriana Lecouvreur has returned to the Liceu, a title that is an authentic operone, with a great vocal score and an orchestration of high level and full of details; a very great drama, with four acts, ballet, three imposing characters and an intense dramatic conflict on a libretto with no special poetic relevance. A work with a very rare aesthetic situation given that, ascribed by the time of composition (it was premiered in 1902) to verismo, it is not about screams and stabbings between rutting rustics but about Parisian 18th century, with corsets, frock coats, powdered wigs, sophisticated courtiers who kill each other whilst courteously bowing and actresses of the Comédie Française who live their art with more intensity than their life. "Less sincere is the truth" states, lucidly, Michonnet in the first act as he listens to Adriana reciting her character with intensity.

Adriana Lecouvreur has been presented in the beautiful and luxurious co-production between the Liceu and four other major theatres and which  premiered at London's Covent Garden in November 2010. It had already been seen at the Liceu in the spring of 2012 and it continues to work perfectly.

The accurate and detailed stage direction of Scottish director David McVicar insists on the idea, always so effective in an art as narcissistic as theatre, of inserting a stage within the stage and “play-within-the-play” blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction. What we see on stage is visually seductive and is greatly supported by Adam Silverman's excellent lighting, which, with a dim light that tends to become golden, evokes the great French baroque paintings, especially those of Antoine Watteau, in such a way that some scenes seem like paintings in motion.

Adriana Lecouvreur was offered in a great level wrapping and wise stage direction, but Adriana Lecouvreur, above all, must be sung, sung "to death". The score offers no relaxation, no hiding places, no possibility of reserving energy, and Adriana, Maurizio and the sinister Princess de Bouillon must take risks from the first note. In this sense the performance was of a very good level with a truly exceptional trio of singers who made up a cast of the highest level.

Adriana Lecouvreur © Gran Teatre del Liceu / Sergi Panizo

Aleksandra Kurzak added strength and drama to a voice with a lyrical base and delivered an Adriana that started well and ended fantastically. The young Polish soprano's Adriana can still be better, it will be when the voice grows, becomes more dramatic and can add vocal weight in the centre and have a more robust lower register.  Freddie De Tommaso, a tenor who has become a regular at the Liceu and who had already sung Carmen and Un ballo in maschera this season, was sensational as Maurizio with brave, generous, well-timed singing, good dynamics and superb projection. De Tommaso has an impressive lirico-spinto tenor voice and stylistically still has a tendency to do some unnecessary portamenti.

Daniela Barcellona was vocally magnificent in the character of the Princess de Bouillon, one of the great "baddies" of Italian opera of all time. Theatrically she literally devoured all the other characters sharing the stage with her.

Michonnet is a very rare, unlikely and unique character in the history of theatre as it portrays a humble, discreet and modest stage director. The grief-stricken Michonnet, the mature, empathetic, cultured and educated man who lives his unrequited love in silence, was defended scenically and vocally at a very high level by Ambrogio Maestri. High level also in all the secondary characters whilst the third act ballet could be improved.

Leading the orchestra, we had Patrick Summers who obtained good results that could have been better. With an unusually elaborate orchestration, Adriana Lecouvreur offers more than one possibility for the orchestra to show off both in the interludes and, especially, in the ballet. The ensemble sounded quite refined and balanced, but Summers should have looked for more expressive intensity, after all Adriana Lecouvreur is a verismo opera.

Xavier Pujol
Barcelona, June 19th, 2024

Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilèa. Freddie De Tommaso, tenor. Aleksandra Kurzak, soprano. Daniela Barcellona, mezzosoprano. Ambrogio Maestri, baritone. Felipe Bou, bass. Didier Pieri, tenor. Carlos Daza, baritone. Marc Sala, tenor. Irene Palazón, soprano. Anaïs Masllorens, mezzosoprano. Orchestra of Gran Teatre del Liceu. Choir of Gran Teatre del Liceu. Patrick Summers, conductor. David McVicar, stage director. Justin Way, restaging. Charles Edwards, scenography. Adam Silverman, lighting. Brigitte Reiffenstuel, costumes. Andrew George, choreography. Coproducction by Gran Teatre del Liceu, Royal Opera House, Staatsoper de Viena, Opéra de Paris and San Francisco Opera.

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