Andrea Chenier is one of the great Verismo operas, along with all of Puccini's operas, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci and Adriana Lecouvreur. This performance is one of the best there is of Andrea Chenier, alongside the 1955(Del Monaco, Stella and Taddei) and 1973 ones(Corelli, Casapietra and Cappuccilli). The costumes and sets are somewhat old-fashioned in style but sumptuous to look at. The picture and sound are good, the black and white is crisp and the video directing is not too flashy, captures the drama very well and unobtrusive.
Musically it is just wonderful with the balance between lush(La Mamma Morta and Nemico Della Patria) and bombastic(the final duet) just right. The conducting is commanding and sensitive in equal measure, complimenting the singers and paying attention to musicianship and textures in the orchestra. The staging is never dull or stagy, always moving or compelling especially in La Mamma Morta and the final duet.
The performances are courtesy of some of the greatest singers of the time, at least two are legendary in their roles. And they are on the whole spot on. Mario Del Monaco may not be at his very best vocally, with some moments of coarseness that you don't hear much of in his earlier Andrea Chenier from 1955, his Manrico from 1957 or his Otello from 1959. However, even towards the end of his peak, his voice is still big and thrilling(which you need in this opera to sail easily over the orchestration) with some ring. He is a very gifted actor too, intense and poetic when needed, and both his Improviso and Come Un Bel Di Maggio are riveting. He and Tebaldi have affecting rapport together, and the last moments of the final duet is thrilling with a capital T.
Renata Tebaldi is also not at her very best, with moments like the top B in La Mamma Morta(which otherwise brings the house down in how poignant it is) that are painfully flat. This said, apart from perhaps Mirella Freni there are few other sopranos in my opinion that had a voice as beautiful as Tebaldi's in her prime, and to me she is unrivalled as Maddalena. Her voice always had a gleaming beauty at whatever dynamic and big in sound. Her phrasing is also full of grace, and while she didn't entirely disappear into her roles in the way sopranos like Maria Callas did her stage presence is charming and noble all the same(you can see that also in how she accepts her applause).
Aldo Protti is not one of my absolute favourite Gerards, Taddei has always been the definitive one for me. However while not quite as good as his Tonio in the 1961 Pagliacci(opposite Del Monaco and Gabriella Tucci), he is very good in the role. He is handsome in presence which helps with the more sympathetic parts of this "villainous revolutionary with a conscience", yet manages to give some intensity also while perhaps not always exciting. His singing is dark, large in size, expressive and well-rounded in timbre. Nemico Della Patria is very well sung.
In support there is Anna Di Stasio who is as ever dependable, with a strong voice and presence. Overall, complete with impeccable musical values and a dream cast singing magnificently, this really is a wonderful example of the golden age of opera. Highly recommended! 10/10 Bethany Cox
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