GIORDANO: Andrea ChÈnier

Music composed by Umberto Giordano (1867ñ1948). Libretto by Luigi Illica.

First Performance: 28 March 1896, Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Characters
Andrea ChÈnier, a poet Tenor
Carlo GÈrard, a servant Baritone
Madalena de Coigny Soprano
Bersi, her maid Mezzo-Soprano
Madelon, an old woman Mezzo-Soprano
La Contessa de Coigny Mezzo-Soprano
Roucher, a friend of ChÈnier Bass
Pietro FlÈville, a novelist Bass
Fouquier Tinville, the Public Prosecutor Bass
Mathieu, a sans-culotte Baritone
An Incroyable Tenor
The AbbÈ, a poet Tenor
Schmidt, a jailer at St. Lazare Bass
Master of the Household Bass
Dumas, president of the tribunal Bass

Setting: The environs of Paris, 1789ñ93.


Act I

As the curtain rises, the servants of the Countess of Coigny are preparing for a ball. Among them is GÈrard, afterward to become a revolutionary leader; he is filled with indignation at the sight of his aged father bent from years of set vile labor for the aristocrats. When the guests have arrived, a typical eighteenth century court pastoral is performed for their entertainment: while the chorus, dressed as shepherds and shepherdesses, sing idealized rustic music, the ballet mimic a rural love story in stately court fashion. Among the guests is the poet, Andrea ChÈnier, whose work is growing popular just at this time. When the Countess asks him to improvise he refuses, but when her beautiful daughter, Madalena, pleads with him he consents. She has rather coquettishly suggested the subject “Love,” but he soon forgets this, and singing of the misery and suffering of the poor, he launches into a tirade against those in power in church and state.

All but Madalena are outraged by the idealistic social and human creed shown in this dramatic song; and when a crowd of ragged men and women appear headed by GÈrard, only to be ordered from the castle, ChÈnier follows them.

Act II

ChÈnier, now a revolutionary, is advised to flee by his friend. “Roucher. who has managed to bring a passport for him. ChÈnier refuses to leave without Madalena. Strangely enough, she arrives, incognito, and begs now a revolutionary power and attracted to her. They linger for a brief love scene, and are about to go, when they are caught by GÈrard. While the rivals take to their swords, Madalena is spirited away. GÈrard, wounded, he believes mortally, magnanimously warns ChÈnier to flee from the wrath of his revolutionary enemies, and asks him to save Madalena also. When the mob arrives on the scene a few minutes later, he tells them that his assailant is unknown to him.


GÈrard has recovered and is presiding over a revolutionary tribunal. A spy announces ChÈnier’s arrest for having dared criticize Robespierre’s cruelty. This is too good an opportunity to make away with a rival, and as he is about to put his signature to the fatal document, he laughingly asks himself, “An enemy of his country?” … he knows well that is the standard charge against one’s personal enemies. Yet he hesitates for a moment recalling that it was ChÈnier’s inspired verse that first awakened his own patriotism . . . now to satisfy his passions he sacrifices a friend. The struggle of honor and desire is beautifully expressed in the music … a bit of the Marseillaise is suggestively quoted by the orchestra. Finally desire triumphs and GÈrard signs in a mood of cynicism.

Hurried before the tribunal, ChÈnier pleads for himself vehemently, saying that he, a soldier, fought for his country; if he must die, let him die fighting for it, not shamefully executed.

Madalena, whose mother has meanwhile perished, also puts in an appearance. She offers to give herself to GÈrard to save ChÈnier’s life. GÈrard then pleads for the poet; but it is now too late. The mob thirsts for blood.

Act IV

Confined in the gloomy St. Lazare prison, ChÈnier awaits execution while writing his last verses, “Come un bel di di Maggio” expressing his belief in truth and beauty.

Madalena having bribed her way, is ushered in by GÈrard, who then goes for a last vain appeal to Robespierre himself. At dawn, the death tumbril comes for the prisoners. Madalena, when the name of some condemned woman is called, rushes out beside ChÈnier and dies with her lover.

Click here for the complete libretto.

image_description=Luciano Pavarotti
first_audio_name=Umberto Giordano (1867ñ1948): Andrea ChÈnier
iTunes, FooBar2000, WinAMP or VLC
product_title=Umberto Giordano (1867ñ1948): Andrea ChÈnier
product_by=Maddalena di Coigny: Eliane Coelho
Andrea ChÈnier: Luciano Pavarotti
Carlo GÈrard: Paolo Gavanelli
Bersi: Malgorzata Walewska
Madelon: Nelly Boschkowa
Countess di Coigny: Waltraud Winsauer
Roucher: Gottfried Hornik
FlÈville: Evgenij Dmitriev
Fouquier-Tinville: David Cale Johnson
Mathieu: Wolfgang Bankl
L’Incredibile: Heinz Zednik
AbbÈ: Franz Kasemann
Schmidt: Rudolf Mazzola
Dumas: Walter Zeh
Major-domo: Andr·s Palerdi
Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
Marco Armiliato (cond.)
Live performance: 17 November 1996, Wiener Staatsoper, Vienna