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Adriana Lecouvreur - Sydney Opera House (NSW)

Composed by Francesco Cilea. Presented by Opera Australia.

Reviewed by Juliana Payne Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Now playing – 7 March 2023


- Opera Australia's 'Adirana Lecouvreur' raises the age-old dilemma - can the artist really have it all? -

Opera Australia’s Adriana Lecouvreur was a high energy, fast-paced and gripping performance. Director Rosetta Cucchi cooked up a touch of Gone With The Wind, a smidgin of Doctor Zhivago, a goodly dollop of Carmen and a generous sprinkling of Hitchcockian drama and suspense to serve the audience a wonderfully filmic experience from the golden age of Hollywood. Of course being an opera, there was the usual amount of drama, betrayal and downright bad behaviour – the story is chock full of gormless faithless men (except one) and passionate driven faithful - but ultimately foolish - women making all the wrong choices.

Ermonela Jaho the lead soprana was unfortunately unwell, and Natalie Aroyan took up the gauntlet admirably and with gusto. Carmen Topciu as the Principessa, Michael Fabiano as the dashing military cad Maurizio and Giogio Caoduro as the faithful Michonnet formed the other three points of this tragic love quadrangle. They all invested a swag of personality and verve into their parts, and were responsible for keeping the pacing fast, and the duets taut and dynamic.

Photo Credit: Keith Saunders

For an opening night with a brand new soprano it all went marvellously well, smooth and seamless, no sharp or flattened notes, and equally so for the instrumental side - conductor Leonardo Sini gave it their all and it wasn’t the summer heat making him mop his brow. The orchestral arrangement played perfectly to align with the golden age of Hollywood tone, with soaring violins, sweet pure woodwinds and sprightly percussion to match the mood and action on stage.

The high drama was leavened with some surprising and welcome wry humour, with the opening scenes resembling a rollcall of characters from a Moliere farce, goofing around on stage: lecherous priests, camp leading actors, and provocative buxom actresses being chased round the flats.

The rich voluptuous costumes by Claudia Pernigotti were precisely what one would expect at the opera – the unexpected era switched after the first act from Victorian crinolines to 1920's Weimar cabaret was a jolt but soon made perfect sense. The ubiquitous yet silent group of 18th century fops providing a standing audience for the onstage action was a lovely cinematic touch to further enhance the Hollywood mood, and the silhouettes that Daniele Naldi created at key points were stunning. Most of the staging was fine, with just one slightly odd choice of the raised platform in the first act making for a few awkward climbings-on and off in long frocks.

This is a dynamic, contemporary and highly accessible rendition of a traditional opera.

Tiziano Santi’s set was just as fluid through time as the costumes: rococo paintings like Fragonard’s saucy The Swing formed a pastiche on split fabric backdrops that made for easy ingress and egress and some lovely effects with bewigged footmen bearing candelabra. Then in the modern phase Roberto Recchia brought the impact of video to further enrich the set, using silent film clips from the dawn of motion pictures and stills of Hollywood’s female stars of the 20s and 30s. The live recreation of dancer Annabelle Moore’s ‘serpentine dance’, (one of the first surviving pieces of film from 1984) was a fabulously lush and gorgeous emanation from the screen to the stage.

Adriana Lecouvreur is an opera within an opera - her search for artistic perfection that is interrupted and ultimately destroyed by her passion for the unworthy Maurizio raises the age-old dilemma - can the artist have it all? Can they give their all to both their love and their art? In the tumultuous concluding scene, Rosetta Cucchi enacts a brilliant concept: Adriana sings a duet with the absent lover Maurizio - who is off-stage and remains unseen - while Michonett who has loved her unfailingly is the one who holds and comforts her, while she yearns for the one who will never be there in the way she wants and needs. The final tableau is a heart-stopper. This is a dynamic, contemporary and highly accessible rendition of a traditional opera that could arguably convince any sceptics as to the value of opera in the modern era.


Cast & Creatives

CONDUCTOR Leonardo Sini

DIRECTOR Rosetta Cucchi

SET DESIGNER Tiziano Santi

COSTUME DESIGNER Claudia Pernigotti


CHOREOGRAPHER Luisa Baldinetti

VIDEO DESIGNER Roberto Recchia


ADRIANA Ermonela Jaho


MAURIZIO Michael Fabiano

MICHONNET Giorgio Caoduro

THE ABBÉ Virgilio Marino

THE PRINCE Richard Anderson

QUINAULT Anthony Mackey

POISSON Adam Player



Opera Australia Orchestra

Opera Australia Chorus



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