Andrea Chenier is one of the finer examples of Verismo opera, with wonderful music(L'Improvviso, La Mamma Morta, Nemico Della Patria and the final scene are the highlights), characters that are more complex than they seem(Carlo Gerard especially) and a compelling enough story. Before I saw this historical performance directed by Mario Landi, I considered the 1973 performance with Corelli, Casapietra and Cappuccilli the best Andrea Chenier I'd seen. After seeing this I change my mind.
This Andrea Chenier is just superb. It boasted sumptuous French Revolution period costume and set design, with good picture and sound quality as well as effectively symbolic use of prison and decorative iron bars to show restriction which is released at the very end. The lip-synching is rather obvious at times though. The orchestral playing is both stirring and nuanced, Nemico Della Patria also has the lushness the orchestration does have at times in that aria, and the conducting is likewise impressive with few, if any, questionable tempos.
In regard to the dramatic side of the performance, that doesn't disappoint either. Attention is given to the characters, especially the title role and Gerard, and the direction of the singers, who are all exceptional. Mario Del Monaco's stentorian voice and how he uses it may not be for everybody, but personally especially in this role, Manrico and Otello he is absolutely thrilling. He is terrific as an actor too, he makes Andrea Chenier as noble, ardent, poetic and passionate. Even better is the superb Gerard of Giuseppe Taddei in one of his best performances of his career. His voice is beautifully-produced, powerful and dark, and his acting, from his hard-jewel-like eyes as he condemns Chenier by letter, his talon-like hands we see constantly reminding us of his lust for power and Maddalena to his pity in La Mamma Morta and his repentance in the final act, he is the epitome of the "villainous revolutionary with a conscience".
Dramatically, Antonietta Stella isn't quite as riveting as Del Monaco and Taddei, but she is still a beautiful and moving Maddalena, and her singing in the upper register is always solid and have a power needed for the soaring notes of La Mamma Morta and the final scene. Of the secondary roles, the most impressive were the poignant Madelon of Ortensia Beggiato and the impeccably-sung and acted Roucher of Franco Calabrese. Bruno Cioni is fine as jailer Schmidt. Overall, simply fantastic, the best filmed Andrea Chenier as far as I'm concerned. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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