Post Cards from the Edge Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier - 17 September 2016 - San Francisco Opera, 7:30 pm | Welcome to Fred’s Home Page

Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier - 17 September 2016 - San Francisco Opera, 7:30 pm 

What struck me most about this opera was the similarity to A Tale of Two Cities.  It is about revolutionary France, the aristocracy, Jacobian spies, and the guillotine.  In the end, Chénier and Maddalena lose their heads.  This is a four act opera with one intermission which lasts approximately two and a half hours.  

I found the opera well done and well sung.  Younghoon Lee was outstanding as Chénier as well as Anna Pirozzi as Maddalena.  The set design was really over the top - as you would expect when you open with an elobrate party at Coigny Château.

Act I

During the party, Gérard, a footman for the Contessa, who also is secretly in love with Maddalena, looks forward to the overthrow of the aristocracy.  Chénier, a poet and friend of the guest Fléville, is asked to produce a poem.  Under duress, he improvises some verses which tells of his love for France and his indifference to the aristocracy.  Maddelena, the daughter of the Countess is offended.  An angry mob storms the château and Gérard allows them entrance.

Act II

It is the worst of times.  The revolution is in full swing and the king and queen are dead.  Chénier, once a leader in the revolution, is now in danger for his criticism of the Jacobians. His friend Roucher produces a passport for him to escape France.  Gérard is now a prominent Jacobian and is asked by the Incredible to find Maddelena.

Maddelena has asked to meet with Chenier in hopes he will remember her and help her.  Chénier’s meeting is interrupted by Gérard. They fight and Gérard, who is trying to capture Maddelena, is wounded.  He remembers Chénier and warms him to flee with Maddalena.  


Chénier and Maddalena flee Paris.  France is under attack from outside enemies and Gérard addresses the crowd to beg for soldiers to defend France.  Chénier is captured and Gérard is tasked with writing the indictment against him.  Maddalena appears before Gérard to plead for Chénier’s life.  Gérard later refutes his written indictment to try to spare Chénier to no avail. Chénier is sentenced to the guillotine.

Act IV

Chénier reads his last poem to Roucher.  Gérard bring Maddelena to Chénier and he bribes the guard into letting Maddelena take the place of another woman condemmed to die that morning.  Chénier and Maddelena make their way up the stairs to the guillotine.  

Image from San Francisco Opera’s website.

© Fred Searcy 2017