I wouldn’t call Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur my favourite opera. Which is a little strange perhaps, considering it’s about a bunch of actors, and one particular actress with a precarious sense of reality, and partly takes place backstage…
But the fact is, I can’t stand the high-strung, oversentimental heroine – and if you say that most opera heroines are high-strung and/or oversentimental, I can’t quite fault your reasoning. Then again, I usually prefer baritone or bass characters – but in Colautti’s libretto (adapted from one of Eugène Scribe’s many, many plays), there’s little to choose in that department.
For all that, I would love to see the Royal Opera House’s production of Adriana, if only for Charles Edwards’s set design. It boasts, you see, a stunning, perfectly functioning Baroque theatre-within-the-theatre, a sort of giant toy-theatre brought to life. The thing had perfectly period stage machinery, and rotated to show the proscenium, the backstage, the wings – to accommodate the different scenes. Director David McVicar moves the whole opera inside the theatre, to emphasize the make-believe quality of Adriana’s world, and Edwards, a fan of toy theatres from a young age, translates this into a “delicate balance between real and artificial”… The result is, even in pictures, stage design to die for.
You can read about Edwards’s wonderful work – and see many pictures and a trailer – here.