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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    AN ELOQUENT PERFORMANCE

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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
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.

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Copyright © 19 April 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK

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'Elgar and Chivalry' by Robert Anderson - available now from Elgar.org