On the Historic Stage of the Bolshoi Theater there was the premiere of Francesco Cilea's opera "Adrienne Lecouvreur", staged by director Evgeny Pisarev in collaboration with conductor Artem Abashev. I followed the twists and turns of the intricate plot, inserted into the typical situation of a “theater within a theater,” with curiosity and some confusion. Gulara Sadikh-zade.
Adrienne Lecouvreur is perhaps Francesco Cilea's most repertoire opera; written at the turn of the century, in 1900, and staged at Milan’s Teatro Lirico in 1902 (at the premiere, Enrico Caruso himself sang the role of Count Moritz of Saxony), it still captivates with its melody and bright color, which is almost not overshadowed even at the time of the heroine’s death in a tragic ending. Compared to the furious, aortic-rupturing verism of Puccini and Mascagni, Cilea’s opera, while formally belonging to the same style, is a kind of lighter, refined version of it. In “Adrienne Lecouvreur” the lyrical beginning undeniably prevails over the expressiveness of expression, and the brightened orchestra delights with pastel, tinted tints of colors.
The current performance of the Bolshoi Theater was released against the backdrop of growing rumors about the resignation of Vladimir Urin. The previous stages of the Urin “glorious decade”, marked by a number of great successes on the operatic front, involuntarily come to mind when trying to evaluate the merits of the freshly prepared premiere of “Adrienne Lecouvreur”. Actually, the list of advantages is small: the eye immediately notices the rich, deep blue tone of the heavy velvet theater curtain with gold fringe, hanging in beautiful large folds and dividing the stage in two (the scenery was created by Zinovy Margolin); The elaborate, fancy, rainbow-colored costumes of the ladies and gentlemen, invented by Victoria Sevryukova, convey the frivolous spirit of the “gallant age.” And, of course, the ear was pleased with the soft, elegant sound of the orchestra under the hands of Artem Abashev - however, not always, but at moments of orchestral performances and interludes, when there was no need to “catch” the singers and support them in complex and fast ensembles with complementary rhythms of voice introductions . In the ensemble episodes, Abashev seemed not to hear that the singers did not have time to fit into the fast tempo he proposed; in such cases, slow down the pace for a split second - and everything would work out. But no, the conductor was uncompromising, and as a result, the ensembles were in disarray right from the very first act.
However, the real pleasure was brought by the orchestra's performance in the episode of the second act, when the allegorical ballet “The Judgment of Paris” began (choreographed by Alexandra Konnikova), presented to the guests at the magnificent reception of the Duke and Duchess de Bouillon. The conditional Paris in a gilded helmet with wings chose which of the three goddesses - the wise Pallas Athena with all the attributes due to her, the warlike hunter Artemis or the frivolous Venus with a flower in her magnificent hair - to present the prize "The Most Beautiful", the notorious golden apple of discord. As a result, the apple was given to the hostess of the reception, the Duchess de Bouillon; what seems to be a direct rhyme with the famous allegorical epilogue of “The Golden Apple” by Marco Antonio Cesti, an opera written for the wedding of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I and Margaret of Spain; there the apple was given to the royal bride in recognition that her wisdom, beauty and other qualities surpassed the virtues of the three goddesses.
And there are a great many such references, rhymes, and implicit allusions in the five-act drama by Eugene Scribe and Ernest Legouvé of 1849, on the basis of which Arturo Colautti wrote a four-act opera libretto. Actually, Cilea’s opera is a text oversaturated with “hyperlinks”. And it is dedicated to the theater and its faithful servants. One of these theater priestesses is the heroine, Adrienne Lecouvreur, the legendary actress of the Comédie Française of the Enlightenment. By the way, in the poster and programs for the premiere her name is Adriana, not Adrienne. To justify this choice, the booklet says: “In the Bolshoi Theater production, the main character is called Adriana in accordance with the rules of transliteration of the Italian language in which Arturo Colautti’s libretto for the opera by Francesco Cilea was written.” For what marvelous reason did the “rules of transliteration of the Italian language” not apply in this case to, say, the natural German Moritz of Saxony, who in the same Bolshoi texts is called Maurice in the French manner, and not Maurizio at all, as in Colautti’s libretto? decidedly incomprehensible.
Despite the apparent simplicity of Cilea’s music, there are many purely musical subtexts hidden in it: here are cute stylizations of the ritornellos of French harpsichordists, and the divertissement of Lullist ballet, and some slightly cooled Italian verism, which breaks out most clearly in the death scene of the main character, played and sung by Dinara Aliyeva quite impressive. On the other hand, French recitation in a high tragic style - Phaedra's monologue at the end of the second act, the monologue from "Bayazet", with which, in fact, her part in the first act begins - a kind of know-how of the opera authors, who easily interweave the texts of Racine's tragedies into the musical fabric—the singer clearly failed: both in terms of the purity of French pronunciation and in the sense of purely dramatic acting.
In the finale, the actress opens a box sent on her birthday, thinking it is a gift from her lover, and inadvertently inhales the deadly aroma of poisoned violets sent by her jealous rival, the Duchess. She dies in the arms of Moritz, who has arrived in time (a plot greeting from La Traviata, in the finale of which Violetta Valerie dies in the arms of Alfredo); A faithful friend stands next to her, saddened and dejected by Michonne.
The part of Michonnet was sung accurately, expressively and intelligently by Vladislav Sulimsky - this is the person to whom practically no questions arose regarding the performance; it was felt that he understood and lived the game deeply and seriously. The same cannot be said about the quality of the vocals of Najmiddin Mavlyanov - Prince Moritz: the singer coped with the part, but with great difficulty. Ksenia Dudnikova sang Duchess de Bouillon at the first premiere performance, showing off her truly bright, voluminous mezzo from the heart. However, even here there were some losses in the intonation sense, and I would like to wish the singer’s sound engineering greater evenness and smoothness.
The classic love triangle, which includes Lecouvreur, the Duchess and Count Moritz - a historical character, the illegitimate son of the famous Saxon elector and King of Poland Augustus the Strong - now and then resembles similar plot collisions in Verdi's Aida. And here and there is a clash of two strong female wills, two rivals, one of whom occupies a high position, the other is inferior to her in social status, but is happy in mutual love. The episode in the second act is dramatic and very similar to the moral duel between Amneris and Aida, when the Duchess, having decided to identify her rival at all costs and confirm her suspicions, publicly declares that Moritz was seriously wounded in the duel, and closely monitors Adrienne’s reaction. And she gives herself away by fainting. Exactly like Aida, who was unable to hide her despair at the false news that Radames had been killed. The appearance of Moritz at the reception, healthy and unharmed, reveals the Duchess's plan. But Adrienne takes revenge, passionately reading the monologue of Phaedra, the criminal, traitorous wife, and thereby clearly hinting at the Duchess, the unfaithful wife.
Based on this rich canvas, embroidered with various cultural allusions, it would be possible to create an extraordinary performance, come up with an interesting director’s interpretation - there is plenty of material for multiple interpretations. But, as they say, thought is primary, embodiment is secondary. In order to say something significant, you simply need to have something to say other than the hackneyed declaration “the whole world is a stage.” And, realizing that there is no point in going against the music (who would argue!), try to somehow build relationships between the characters under the proposed conditions, create somewhat lively, well-developed characters, and not put singers on the front stage so that they sing, addressing the audience, without even squinting his eyes at the subject of sighs (although, say, the aria of Moritz, who appeared in the first act in Adrienne’s dressing room in the costume of a simple soldier, is addressed to his beloved and to no one else).
The situation is not at all saved by the obsessive flickering of the so-called theater spirits, with the help of which the director and choreographer are trying in vain to saturate the performance with movement. By the way, the “spirits” look like livery footmen in powdered wigs of the 18th century, and their functions on stage - give, place, bring - are quite consistent with their appearance. With the exception, perhaps, of a couple of scenes where they, to the best of their abilities and capabilities, show some attitude towards what is happening: for example, huddled at the top, on conventional grates, shaking their heads and wagging their fingers at the heroes, like little angels.
Listing all the staged absurdities is a tedious and thankless task. But the theater management, obviously, tried to assemble the best production team possible under the current desperate conditions for the performance. How, then, could they together create such a meaningless, purely illustrative spectacle? Of course, one can attribute such an artistic result to timely self-censorship, a keen sense of “no matter what happens.” Indeed, it would be much calmer to make a beautiful, costume performance, so that the vigilant viewer could not find fault with the fact that the historical realities of the era of Louis XV were not respected (because he understands nothing about them), or with subtexts and hidden meanings (because that they simply don’t exist). As they say, we will comply, we will not give the home-grown censors a single clue, not a single reason for quibbles. And here one involuntarily recalls the apocrypha about Dmitry Shostakovich. After the publication of the infamous resolution of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks in 1948, Shostakovich, in order to clear himself of accusations of formalism, wrote the oratorio “Song of the Forests” - simple in thought and form, melodic, like a pioneer song, but impeccably ideologically consistent. After the performance, one of his colleagues came up to him and asked: “Mitya, are you really that scared?”