People who think Adriana Lecouvreur is idiotic: “By including all the mechanics and artifice of a theater in their setting, the creators unwittingly find an appropriate metaphor for their plot. In fact, the emotional impact of the opera’s plot compares unfavorably to the bits we see from Adriana’s own performances.”
People who think Adriana Lecouvreur is actually surprisingly not bad: “That’s the point, dumbass.”
While Adriana’s profession as such is largely irrelevant for the squeaky cogs of the plot (what matters is the social position it puts her in), her performances provide two of the high points of the opera. By showing her at work, the opera thematizes the performer-audience relationship, showing how art can provide emotion and truth exceeding anything Adriana’s confusing real world can offer. And THAT is an essential message of verismo. Art is like your life, only more real, more intense, and more vivid. I mean, I don’t think Cilèa intended for his main character’s art to upstage his own, but it’s weirdly poignant if it does.
|WHEN FLOWERS KILL|
In Adriana’s second performance, her Phèdre speech condemning the Princess conveniently says things that no one has the guts to actually say directly. As an actress, she can express things with art that she can’t as a wishy-washy person. And Cilèa gets out of the picture entirely, emphasizing how different Adriana the Actress is from Adriana the Person by having her speak the words instead of singing them. She leaves the opera's world--where people sing--and goes into speech, which registers as extraordinary, just as singing does in comparison to everyday speech in the real world. As she nears the crucial point and leaves Phèdre behind for Adriana, she begins to sing, but it wouldn’t have been the same had she sung the whole thing.
Is this an exercise in taking a silly opera far too seriously? Probably, but I prefer to find things interesting than dismiss them. Is Adriana any good? It beats most of those early Verdi operas the Met drags out at a rate of two per season, if you ask me. So. Let’s hope Angela shows up. I would have an opinion of Angeles Blancas Gulin, her understudy, but she canceled the time I was supposed to see her (Aida in Basel). Oops.
Scenery photo copyright Catherine Ashmore/Royal Opera House
Director David McVicar on his production, this is a really good video once you get past the ear-splitting Salome: