Friday, August 19, 2011

Sunday Classics preview: Preparing for the culmination of our "Andrea Chenier" series -- Recap No. 1, Gérard's monologue


Ettore Bastianini as Gérard at the Met in 1955 -- we're going to hear him in a moment in the opening scene of Andrea Chénier, and then again Sunday in Act III.

by Ken

As I've explained in our two previous weeks devoted to Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chénier (see the listings below), my proposition is that I take the opera seriously as a representation of the popular rage that exploded into the French Revolution, and in our earlier installments we listened to two chunks of Act I, which takes us up to the outbreak, in preparation for some listening to the scene involving the elderly Madelon in Act III.

In this week's previews we're going to recap the episodes covered in those first two parts, starting tonight with the opera's very opening. Amid the bustle of preparations for a grand soirée at the home of the Contessa di Coigny, the servant Carlo Gérard first demonstrates his wit, shrewdness, and verbal facility with an apostrophe to a couch that has been witness to so much aristocratic foolishness and then, seeing his father still "on the job" despite his advanced age and infirmity, is rerouted to an expression of his feelings abjectness and humiliation, and finally explodes in rage that's expressed as intensely and forcefully as I've encountered in the theater world.

As a pre-refresher refresher, here are the second and third parts sung by the great baritone Riccardo Stracciari in 1925, at the age of 50.

GIORDANO: Andrea Chénier: Act I, Gérard, "Son sessant'anni, o vecchio, che tu servi" . . . "T'odio, casa dorata"
An old man comes in from the garden carrying a heavy piece of furniture. GÉRARD throws down the duster he is holding and goes to help him. Weak and shaky, the old man leaves, disappearing through the garden. GÉRARD, much moved, watches him go.

GÉRARD: It's sixty years, old man,
that you've been a servant here!
On your insolent,
arrogant masters
you've lavished fidelity, sweat,
the strength of your nerves,
your soul, your mind . . .
and as if your own life didn't suffice
to carry on
the horrendous suffering,
you've given the existence
of your children . . .
[With immense disdain he strikes his breast with open hand, murmuring through tears]
You've fathered menials!
[He dries his tears disdainfully, turns to survey pridefully the opulence around him]
[1:24] I loathe you, gilded house!
You are the image of a world
powdered and vain!
You pretty gallants in silk and laces,
faster ever faster whirl
your merry gavottes and minuets!
Your fate is sealed!
Worthless and wicked race,
the son of serfs and a servant
here, a judge in livery,
I tell you: It's the hour of death!
Riccardo Stracciari, baritone. Columbia, recorded in London, 1925

In the click-through we're going to hear the opening scene, including the first appearance of the Contessa's beautiful daughter Maddalena, observed most unsilently by Gérard. And luckily we can draw on a recording we haven't heard at all in our previous Chénier posts, from which we'll also be hearing excerpts tomorrow night and Sunday. I'll have more to say about it in the click-through.



(1) The opening scene: Gérard's monologue

Main post (7/10/2011): "Giordano's Andrea Chénier and the class war that wrote the book on class warfare"
-- Leonard Warrren (Met 1957), Mario Sereni (1963 EMI recording), Ettore Bastianini (Vienna 1960), Bechi (1941 EMI recording)

Preview (7/9/2011): "Giordano's Andrea Chénier and the class war that wrote the book on class warfare "
-- Ettore Bastianini (Vienna 1960)
-- Giuseppe Taddei (RAI Milan, 1955)
-- Giorgio Zancanaro (1985 Covent Garden video and 1986 Sony/Hungaroton recording) et al.

(2) The scene that leads up to the Improvviso

Main post: "The seething revolutionary rage of Andrea Chénier certainly strikes a chord at our present moment"
Complete scene:
-- Beniamino Gigli et al. (San Francisco 1938)
-- Luciano Pavarotti et al. (1982-84 Decca recording)
-- Franco Corelli et al. (1963 EMI recording)
-- Mario del Monaco, Maria Callas, et al. (La Scala 1955)
Plus excerpts from Vienna 1960 (Kostas Paskalis as Fléville), Met 1957 (Richard Tucker et al.)

Preview (7/30/2011): "Is the moral of Andrea Chénier that poets make lousy party guests?"
-- studio recordings of the Improvviso by Enrico Caruso, Jon Vickers, Giuseppe di Stefano, Ben Heppner, José Cura (chosen on the basis of "what I've got on CD")

(3) The Madelon scene of Act III

Main post (8/21/2011): "We do know that young Roger Alberto isn't coming back, don't we?"
-- Madelon's story told by Larissa Diadkova (video, Madrid 2010) and Hilde Konetzni (Vienna 1960)
-- Gérard's appeal sung by Ettore Bastianini (Vienna 1960)
-- the complete opening scene of Act III with Fernando Corena, Bastianini, and Amelia Guidi (1957 Decca) and Paolo Montarsolo, Mario Sereni, and Anna di Stasio (1963 EMI)
Plus the end of Act I from 1957 Decca and 1963 EMI

Preview No. 1 (8/19/2011): "Preparing for the culmination of our "Andrea Chenier" series -- Recap No. 1, Gérard's monologue"
-- "Son sessant'anni" and "T'odio, casa dorata" sung by Riccardo Stracciari (1925)
-- complete scene with Ettore Bastianini and Renata Tebaldi (1957 Decca)

Preview No. 2 (8/20/2011): "Preparing for the culmination of our "Andrea Chenier" series -- Recap No. 2, Chénier's Improvviso"
-- the Improvviso sung by Aureliano Pertile (1927)
-- complete scene with Mario del Monaco, Renata Tebaldi, et al. (1957 Decca)

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