Appealing, Traditional Production of Andrea Chénier with Strong Vocal Cast

GermanyGermany Giordano, Andrea Chénier: Deutsche Oper Chorus and Orchestra / Giampaolo Bisanti (conductor), Deutsche Oper Berlin, 5.12.2018. (JMI)

Act I of Andrea Chénier © B. Stöss


Director – John Dew
Sets – Peter Sykora
Costumes – José Manuel Vázquez


Andrea Chénier – Martin Muehle
Maddalena – María José Siri
Carlo Gérard – Roman Burdenko
Bersi – Vasilisa Berzhanskaya
Madelon – Elena Zilio
Incroyable – Burkhard Ulrich
Contessa di Coigny – Nicole Piccolomini
Roucher – Ievgen Orlov
Fléville – Philipp Jekal
Abbé – Ya-Chung Huang
Mathieu – Samuel Dale Johnson
Schmidt – Bryan Murray

This was the fortieth Berlin performance of John Dew’s 1994 production – not a huge number considering its age. Andrea Chénier is not an opera that allows for many personal touches on the part of stage directors: the libretto is marked in detail with when and where the action takes place. Indeed, Dew’s is a traditional production, and the sole ‘originality’ comes in the Act II duel between Chénier and Carlo Gérard. Here it does not end with Gérard being wounded by the poet; rather, he pretends to be wounded when the crowd arrives, to facilitate Chénier’s escape.

In Act I the stage consists of a wide platform where the party at the Contessa’s mansion takes place. This becomes a pitched platform in the second act, with a large bust of Marat added. This same stage serves for Act III but eliminates the aforementioned bust. Finally, in the fourth act the platform rises to reveal a sort of underground dungeon for the prison scene. The costumes are traditional, colorful and quite funny for the Contessa’s party.

Giampaolo Bisanti, one of the new generation of conductors, is enjoying an important career in the opera houses of the world. His conducting here was energetic but without great nuance and, for my taste, there was too much volume on more than one occasion, especially considering that the slanted platforms tended to project the voices. The orchestra and chorus of the Deutsche Oper both gave fine performances.

The poet Andrea Chénier was to have been played by Roberto Alagna, but he cancelled. His replacement was tenor Martin Muehle, who is well suited to the character. Muehle’s powerful voice is that of a spinto tenor and particularly bright at the top, even more so than in the center range. His best moment was his arioso before the court in Act III. There was a notice of his indisposition at the beginning of the performance, which explains why in his final duet with Maddalena he did not go to the high note.

Maddalena di Coigny was played by soprano María José Siri, who did a fine job in the role. Her best moment came in the aria ‘La mamma morta’, for which she received a huge ovation from the audience.

Baritone Roman Burdenko, who sang the part of Carlo Gérard, has a remarkable voice in terms both of quality and volume. However, it did not run easily when he sang from the platform, which was very open. He sang the aria ‘Nemico della patria’ from the front of the stage, and it all worked much better.

In the secondary characters Vasilisa Berzhanskaya was a competent Bersi, and veteran Elena Zilio was correct in the part of Madelon, as was mezzo-soprano Nicole Piccolomini as the Countess. Ievgen Orlov demonstrated his big voice as Roucher, and Burkhard Ulrich was good as Incroyable. Samuel Dale Johnson too was appropriate in his role as Mathieu, as were Philipp Jekal as Fléville and Ya-Chung Huang as the Abbé.

José M. Irurzun

2 thoughts on “Appealing, Traditional Production of <i>Andrea Chénier</i> with Strong Vocal Cast”

  1. I heard Martin Muehle last year at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo as Maurizio in Cilea’s ‘Adriana Lecouvreur’ opposite Angela Gheorghiu. He impressed me then, so happy to read that you enjoyed his singing also.

  2. I don’t know how somebody’s stage design like seen on the photo can be called ‘traditional production’?


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