The life of the famous French poet André Chénier (1762-1794) was the subject of the most successful opera of Umberto Giordano –one of the most representative exponents of operatic verismo, and in particular of the Giovane Scuola. The opera was set to a libretto by Luigi Illica and premiered at La Scala, Milan, on 28 March 1896, a century after the French Revolution. The French Revolution –whose ideas decisively affected the developments in Greece that gave rise to the 1821 Revolution– is also the period in which the action is set.
The hero who bears the name of the opera’s title was born in Istanbul to a French father and a Greek mother. We first meet him in 1789 in the Parisian aristocracy circles supporting the French Revolution and joining the revolutionary movement along with Gérard. Gérard (a role based in part on the French Revolution hero Jean-Lambert Tallien) turns from a servant of aristocrats into a leading figure of the Sans-culottes, namely the people from the lower strata of the bourgeoisie who were actively involved in the revolutionary political struggle (sans-culottes means “those without breeches” – because in contrast to the aristocrats who wore knee-breeches [culottes], they wore trousers). However, their love for the same woman turns the friendship between the two men into a rivalry. Three years later, when Chénier gets arrested as a conspirator against the Revolution for decrying the atrocities committed under the Reign of Terror, Gérard is the one who will prepare the indictment against him. Although he will later realise his mistake and try to set the poet free, his effort will be in vain, and Chénier will be led to the guillotine.
On the title page of the score we read: “Drama in a historical setting…”, and indeed, through his music, Giordano brings out not only the love element and passions of his heroes, but also the conflict between the rivaling social groups and the atmosphere of the era of the French Revolution: the gavotte –typical aristocratic dance– is contrasted with Ça ira, La Carmagnole and La Marseillaise.
The timeless values portrayed in the opera –the French Revolution motto for Liberty, Equality, Fraternity–, combined with the intense love and dramatic elements highlighted through Giordano’s enchanting music, is the reason why Andrea Chénier has been so appealing to opera audiences to this day.
Filmed at the Stavros Niarchos Hall on January 28th & 30th 2021
As part of the tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution
Lead Donor to the GNO and the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Conductor Philippe Auguin
Staging Nikos Petropoulos
Revival director Ion Kessoulis
Choreographer Fausta Mazzucchelli
Choreography revival, movement Stratos Papanoussis
Lighting revival Christos Tziogkas
Chorus master Agathangelos Georgakatos
Andrea Chénier Marcelo Álvarez
Carlo Gérard Dimitri Platanias
Maddalena di Coigny Maria Agresta
Bersi Marissia Papalexiou
La Contessa di Coigny Ines Zikou
Madelon Julia Souglakou
Roucher Yanni Yannissis
Pietro Fléville / Schmidt Vangelis Maniatis
Fouquier-Tinville George Mattheakakis
Mathieu Kostis Rassidakis
An Incroyable Christos Kechris
The Abbé Nicholas Stefanou
Master of the household Marinos Tarnanas
Dumas Konstantinos Mavrogenis
With the Orchestra and Chorus of the GNO