Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Andrea Chénier. It was last on stage 20 January—6 February 2015 as part of the Winter 2014/15 season.
The poet Andrea Chénier and the servant Carlo Gérard both love the young aristocrat Maddalena. When Maddalena loses everything in the French Revolution, Chénier offers her protection, and so incites the envy of Gérard, now a powerful official.
Chénier is arrested during the Terror. Gérard, spurred by his jealousy, condemns him. Maddalena makes a desperate appeal, and Gérard tries, too late, to defend Chénier. Gérard helps Maddalena to join Chénier in prison, and the lovers face the guillotine together.
The premiere of Andrea Chénier at La Scala, Milan, on 28 March 1896 propelled the young Umberto Giordano to the front rank of the giovane scuola (an up-and-coming group of young Italian composers that included Puccini and Mascagni). The opera exemplifies the verismo style that dominated Italian opera of the period – nowhere more so than in Giordano's skilful interpolation of different musical styles to provide local colour, from the aristocratic Gavotte of Act I to the Marseillaise in Act IV. The libretto by Luigi Illica (Puccini’s collaborator for Manon Lescaut, La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly) was inspired by the real-life Romantic poet André Chénier, who was guillotined just three days before Robespierre's execution.
Andrea Chénier has become celebrated for the lyrical music it offers the tenor who takes the leading role, with the off-the-cuff Improvviso of Act I and his final aria 'Come un bel dì di maggio' particular highlights. But there are thrilling moments for the whole cast, including Maddalena's ardent aria 'La mamma morta', Gérard’s 'Nemico della patria!’ and a host of dramatic duets and characterful ensembles. David McVicar (whose productions for The Royal Opera include Le nozze di Figaro, Faust and Die Zauberflöte) directs The Royal Opera's new production, moving from the opulence of pre-Revolutionary France to the horrors of the Reign of Terror.
News and features
19 November 2015
Composers have long experimented with different ways of giving a sense of community, often using the chorus to highly dramatic effect.
13 May 2015
Composers have been inspired by everything about the French capital – from its seediness to its troubled political history – but most of all by its air of romance.
9 March 2015
Nominees include Jonas Kaufmann, Christopher Wheeldon, and The Royal Opera's offsite programme in collaboration with Shakespeare's Globe and the Roundhouse.
29 January 2015
What did you think of the live cinema relay of David McVicar's Royal Opera production of Umberto Giordano's opera?
29 January 2015
Backstage films from the live relay of Andrea Chénier including a musical masterclass from Antonio Pappano, and an insight into costume design.
26 January 2015
British actor will introduce a live global audience to Giordano’s passionate opera.
Andrea Chénier is a verismo opera in four acts by the composer Umberto Giordano, set to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica. It is based loosely on the life of the French poet, André Chénier (1762-1794), who was executed during the French Revolution. The character Carlo Gérard is partly based on Jean-Lambert Tallien, a leader of the Revolution. Andrea Chénier remains popular with audiences, though it is now less frequently performed than it was during the first half of the 20th century. One reason that the opera has stayed in the repertoire is due to the magnificent lyric-dramatic music provided by Giordano for the tenor lead, which gives a talented singer many opportunities to demonstrate his histrionic skill and flaunt his voice. Indeed, Giuseppe Borgatti's triumph in the title part at the first performance immediately propelled him to the front rank of Italian opera singers. Borgatti went on to become Italy's greatest Wagnerian tenor rather than a verismo-opera specialist.