Andrea Chénier, Opera by U. Giordano
A dramatic opera in four acts by Umberto Giordano with libretto by Luigi Illica. In 1894, exactly one century after the death of the French poet André Chénier, the Italian composer Alberto Franchetti asked the librettist Luigi Illica (who would later work with Puccini) to write the text for a new opera. It was to be set during the time of revolutionary France, and based on the last years of Chénier’s life before he was executed. However, Franchetti decided to help the young Italian composer Giordano, passing the libretto about the André Chénier on to him.
Giordano, who was 27 years old and virtually unknown, moved to Milan to start composing the music to go with Illica’s texts. He finished Andrea Chénier at the end of 1895, although it was not premiered until 28 March 1896, the first performance taking place at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan to great acclaim. After this, it was performed all around the world – some highlights being New York in 1896, Barcelona in 1898, London in 1903 and Paris in 1905 – thus becoming Umberto Giordano’s most successful opera.
Andrea Chénier portrays a world of intense contrasts, with hate, violence, civil war, resentment and class war on the one hand, but with love and romance on the other. Such diverse aspects of life and experience take place against the backdrop of revolutionary France in this opera – one of the most characteristic of the Italian Veristic period.
The drama unfolds in France both before and during the Revolution, between 1789 and 1794.