The "departing gift" of Nicolas Joel, who stepped down as director of the Opéra de Paris last summer, is a production of Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, on the stage now. Like so much of Joel's work in Paris, as far as the critics were concerned, this was not exactly a novelty, in a production by David McVicar, created for soprano Angela Gheorghiu, which has already made the rounds in London, Barcelona, and Vienna, as well as being released on DVD. Marie-Aude Roux has an assessment (A l’Opéra de Paris, Adriana Lecouvreur est éclipsée par sa rivale, June 29) for Le Monde (my translation):
The masterpiece of the Calabrian composer, written at the turn of the 20th century and premiered in 1902, was inspired by the tragic fate of the great French actress Adrienne Lecouvreur (1692-1730), who died young. An unusual fate striking enough to have inspired several poems, plays, and films -- she has been played by Sarah Bernhardt, Joan Crawford, and Yvonne Printemps. That was why Voltaire, whose interpreter and mistress she was, lionized her, despising the religious practices that caused her to be excommunicated (and refused Christian burial), while omitting any reference to her affair with Count Maurice de Saxe and the murderous hate conceived for her by her rival, the Princesse de Bouillon. [...]This production continues through July 15, at the Opéra de Paris.
Angela Gheorghiu, at 49, has kept her pretty figure, her mellow timbre, and her marvelous, spidery pianissimos -- a silken thread of burnished gold, woven with art into an impalpable shimmer. But the diva could not make up for, even through outrageous acting, a lack of projection made even more noticeable in the face of the maelstrom of Luciana D'Intino, a Princesse de Bouillon of deep timbre and biting style, at ease across the entire tessitura, quite simply terrifying.