Željko Lučić plays Carlo Gérard in David McVicar's production of Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chénier. Find out more at
The poet Andrea Chénier and the servant Carlo Gérard both love the young aristocrat Maddalena. When Maddalena loses everything in the French Revolution, Chénier offers her protection, and so incites the envy of Gérard, now a powerful official.
Chénier is arrested during the Terror. Gérard, spurred by his jealousy, condemns him. Maddalena makes a desperate appeal, and Gérard tries, too late, to defend Chénier. Gérard helps Maddalena to join Chénier in prison, and the lovers face the guillotine together.
The premiere of Andrea Chénier at La Scala, Milan, on 28 March 1896 propelled the young Umberto Giordano to the front rank of the giovane scuola (an up-and-coming group of young Italian composers that included Puccini and Mascagni). The opera exemplifies the verismo style that dominated Italian opera of the period – nowhere more so than in Giordano's skilful interpolation of different musical styles to provide local colour, from the aristocratic Gavotte of Act I to the Marseillaise in Act IV. The libretto by Luigi Illica (Puccini’s collaborator for Manon Lescaut, La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly) was inspired by the real-life Romantic poet André Chénier, who was guillotined just three days before Robespierre's execution.
Andrea Chénier has become celebrated for the lyrical music it offers the tenor who takes the leading role, with the off-the-cuff Improvviso of Act I and his final aria 'Come un bel dì di maggio' particular highlights. But there are thrilling moments for the whole cast, including Maddalena's ardent aria 'La mamma morta', Gérard’s 'Nemico della patria!’ and a host of dramatic duets and characterful ensembles. David McVicar (whose productions for The Royal Opera include Le nozze di Figaro, Faust and Die Zauberflöte) directs The Royal Opera's new production, moving from the opulence of pre-Revolutionary France to the horrors of the Reign of Terror.