This is the third time I’ve reviewed Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, and there’s a pattern: no matter how starrily cast the two main roles are, the baritone singing the stage manager Michonnet always steals the show. I no longer think this is chance accident. More likely, it’s because the role has such appeal: here is a good, faithful man whose tragedy is that he is both ageing and devoid of sex appeal.
I doubt that I’m ever going to see a more confident Covent Garden début than that of Ksenia Dudnikova as the Princesse de Bouillon (who is in fact the poisoner). It’s not a nuanced role – the requirement for characterisation is limited to “spiteful, vengeful, vicious” – but it needs a mezzo with presence and authority, and Dudnikova certainly provided that. She put me in mind of hearing Liudmyla Monastyrska’s Covent Garden début: this is a huge voice that was perfectly in tune and shook the rafters.
As ever at Covent Garden, supporting roles were strongly cast, most notably Bálint Szabó’s powerful bass as the Prince. Under Daniel Oren, the Royal Opera Orchestra turned in a solid performance – lacking, perhaps, in the last degree of Puccini-esque sweep and lustrous string timbre, but well paced and sprightly.
This production of Adriana Lecouvreur isn't the star vehicle that I'm sure some would like, but it’s a solid, watchable, well put together and well performed production of an opera I love.
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