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Giordano Andrea Chenier

Chorus & Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera

Cond Nello Santi

 

Deutsche Grammophon 00440 073 4070

Recorded 30 April 1981 1 disc 139 minutes

 

Andrea Chenier Placido Domingo

Carlo Gerard Piero Cappuccilli

Maddalena di Coigny Gabriela Benackova

Bersi Rohangiz Slania

La Contessa di Coigny Czeslawa Slania

Madelon Fedora Barbieri

 

Director Otto Schenk

Set Design Rolf Glittenberg

Costume Design Milena Canonero

Lighting - Robert Strangl

 

This was recorded live on 30 April 1981, at what seems to have been a gala performance attended by an audience determined to show their full appreciation of a cast containing three world class artists on top form. Placido Domingo (Chenier), at the height of his powers, plays the handsome and idealistic poet, Pierro Capucilli (Gerrard) gives a particularly rugged and forceful portrayal of the servant turned revolutionary, and Gabriela Benackova (Maddalena) charms as the aristocrat in hiding whom they both love.

 

Otto Schenk gives us a stark picture of 18 th century France. The aristocrats at Madame di Coigny's first act party are almost caricatures with exaggerated plumed hats and wigs. As the force of the Revolution gathers, the sets depict the increasing sense of disorder with overturned carriages and a jumble of looted property.

 

There are two problems: First the quality of filming is poor, extra lighting had obviously not been permitted, and the cameras seem to lack direction. The second is the over-enthusiasm of the audience, who break in with lengthy applause at the end of each major aria. In close up, we see the principals struggle between acknowledging the adulation or remaining in character a clear case where cuts would have been appropriate.

 

Domingo sang the same role at Covent Garden in 1985 with Giorgio Zancanaro and Anna Tomowa-Sintow, both superb in their roles. It was televised with the benefit Humphrey Burton's direction, subsequently issued on video, and is still available as a CD (Warner Music Vision 50504668357-2-7).

 

Anyone who has this video and still finds that format convenient, will be unlikely to wish to exchange it for the newly released Vienna recording. Otherwise the exceptional performances of Cappuccilli, and Domingo, in roles that suit them perfectly, provide reason enough to acquire it.

 

Serena Fenwick

 

© Peter Grahame Woolf