- Julian Budden
Opera in four acts by Francesco Cilea to a libretto by Arturo Colautti after Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé’s play Adrienne Lecouvreur; Milan, Teatro Lirico, 6 November 1902.
Adriana Lecouvreur was commissioned by the publisher Edoardo Sonzogno following the success of Cilea’s L’arlesiana. Cilea chose the subject for its mixture of comedy and tragedy, its 18th-century ambience, the loving intensity of its protagonist and the moving final act; three other operas use the story of Adrienne Lecouvreur (by Edoardo Vera, Tommaso Benvenuti and Ettore Perosio). Colautti reduced the intricate mechanism of Scribe’s plot to a serviceable operatic framework, occasionally at the expense of clarity. The première, however, was outstandingly successful, with a cast that included Enrico Caruso (Maurizio), Angelica Pandolfini (Adriana) and Giuseppe De Luca (Michonnet). The conductor was Cleofonte Campanini. The first London performance took place at Covent Garden in 1904 in the presence of the composer with Rina Giachetti (Adriana), Giuseppe Anselmi (Maurizio) and Mario Sammarco (Michonnet), again under Campanini. Three years later the opera arrived at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, with Caruso (Maurizio), Lina Cavalieri (Adriana) and Antonio Scotti (Michonnet). Since then ...