<< -- 2 -- Robert Anderson AN ELOQUENT PERFORMANCE
Never would I presume to call Joan Sutherland 'an experienced prima donna who has already passed
her prime'. That, though, is how New Grove Opera characterises demands of the work's title
role. Adriana is a star of the Comédie française in 1730, and the cast is
preparing for an evening's performance of Racine's Bajazet, an appalling tale of slaughter in
the seraglio. There are flashes of backstage bickering in nervous anticipation of curtain-up
[watch and listen -- 'Del sultano Amuratte' (Act 1), chapter 4, 8:10-9:42].
Backstage bustle at the Comédie Française before curtain-up, at the beginning of Act 1 of 'Adriana Lecouvreur'. DVD screenshot © Opus Arte
The 1730 intrigues of the Comédie française cannot quite outdo the Turkish
passions of a hundred years earlier, but they tried hard. Adriana's present lover is Maurizio, Count
of Saxony (the commanding Anson Austin). She knows him only as an officer of the Count's, but Cilea
almost convinces us this may be a first love for them both
[watch and listen -- 'Adriana! Maurizio!' (Act 1), chapter 7, 20:00-21:30].
But nothing in opera is as simple as that. Before going on stage, Adriana gives her officer a
bunch of violets. Maurizio, however, has been a previous lover to Heather Begg as the Princess
of Bouillon. She has summoned him to a tryst at her husband's villa by the Seine. This he
decides to keep for political reasons.
Copyright © 19 April 2006
Robert Anderson, London UK