An opera about love, jealousy and its consequences in the 18th century France, based on true events. The talent and beauty of the celebrated actress Adriana Lecouvreur is loved and admired by theatre audiences while envied by her rivals. Adriana has fallen in love with Maurizio, the Count of Saxony. However, their relationship turns out to be part of a tragic love triangle in which the Princess of Bouillon plays a decisive role. Thanks to its outstanding music and the deeply moving story, this Italian opera is regularly staged by major arts and theatre institutions across the world.
Francesco Cilea’s opera Adriana Lecouvreur was first performed in 1902 in Milan. This is its third production at the Latvian National Opera, directed by Vincent Boussard and his creative team from France. Their work has already been highly regarded by our audiences from their interpretation of Francis Poulenc's opera, Dialogues des Carmélites.
Backstage at the Comédie-Française
The Comédie-Française troupe is preparing for a performance of Racine's tragedy Bajazet, including the great actress Adriana [historically: Adrienne] Lecouvreur and her rival, Mlle Duclos. The actors are pestering the play’s director Michonnet with their demands. Prince of Bouillon (Mlle Duclos’ lover) arrives to wish the artists good luck, accompanied by Abbé de Chazeuil. Before going on stage, Adriana repeats her lines. Interrupted, she listens to the Duke and Abbot’s praises.
Emboldened by his recently acquired inheritance, Michonnet plans to propose to Adriana, but she confesses that she has fallen in love with the young officer who serves Maurizio [historically: Maurice, the Count of Saxony]. The officer turns out to be Maurizio himself, who soon arrives and passionately confesses his feelings to Adriana. They decide to have a rendezvous after the performance. Just before she goes on stage, Adriana gives her lover a bunch of violets.
The Abbé learns about a letter addressed to Maurizio, indicating a meeting time at the mansion where the prince has housed Mlle Duclos. He informs the prince of the letter; they both suspect that the Count and Mlle Duclos are having an affair. They don’t know that Mlle Duclos is only helping Princess de Bouillon, who wants to meet with Maurizio in secret. The prince decides to take advantage of the situation and get rid of Mlle Duclos whom he’s already grown tired of. He decides to hold a small celebration at the same time and place mentioned in the note.
Michonnet is admiring Adriana, who’s delivering a monologue on stage, while Maurizio familiarises himself with the contents of the note he’s received. He decides to cancel his meeting with Adriana in order to meet with the princess, as the outcome of his political ambitions depends on her support. Disappointed, Adriana accepts the prince’s invitation to the celebration, hoping to meet the Count of Saxony there and speak a kind word to him about her beloved "officer".
Mlle Duclos’s mansion
Princess de Bouillon is expecting Maurizio, whom she loves with jealous passion. Immediately after greeting each other, the princess spots the bunch of violets that adorns Maurizio’s clothing. The Count of Saxony is forced to present these flowers to his influential matron. Nonetheless, upon sensing Maurizio’s cold disposition once they’ve finished discussing political matters, the princess grows suspicious. Maurizio doesn't hide the fact that he's in a relationship with a woman, though he refuses to reveal his lover’s name.
They are startled by Prince de Bouillon’s arrival. His spouse manages to hide in the adjacent room in the nick of time. The prince and the Abbé, thinking they’ve interrupted a rendezvous with Mlle Duclos, congratulate Maurizio on his latest victory in the battlefield of love. To protect the princess, Maurizio doesn’t protest. Adriana arrives and discovers that her beloved officer is the Count of Saxony himself.
The Abbé insinuates to Adriana that Maurizio is at the mansion purely for private reasons. Maurizio confirms to Adriana that he’s met with a woman here, but explains that it’s not Mlle Duclos, and they met to discuss urgent political matters. He pleads for Adriana to help the mysterious lady leave the mansion unnoticed. In the darkness, the two women meet and realise they’re both rivals for Maurizio's heart. As the prince approaches with the guests, Adriana unlocks the door to the garden for the enraged princess. In her haste to escape, the princess loses her bracelet.
Prince de Bouillon’s palace
The Abbé oversees the preparations for the upcoming celebration. He tries to flirt with the princess, who is tired of his attention. The guests arrive, with Michonnet and Adriana among them. The princess seems to recognise the voice of her rival, who recently helped her to escape from a delicate situation. To make sure, the princess announces that Maurizio has been wounded in a duel. Adriana's reaction confirms her suspicions. Maurizio’s subsequent arrival surprises the guests and comforts Adriana. Obeying the prince’s insistent request, Maurizio shares the details of his brilliant victory in Courland. Later, Prince de Bouillon invites everyone to continue the celebrations by watching the ballet Di Paride il giudizio. (The ballet "Di Paride il giudizio" (The Judgment of Paris) depicts a dispute among two goddesses over which one of them is more beautiful and deserves to receive the golden apple as a prize. The prince and shepherd Paris, the son of the ruler of Troy, is called upon to act as the judge in this matter. But unlike the myth, in the ballet, it’s not the goddess of love who’s deemed the most beautiful, but the goddess of might and power.)
The princess and Adriana provoke each other out of jealousy: the princess with her bunch of violets and Adriana with the bracelet found at Mlle Duclos’s mansion. The prince, causing general confusion, recognises the piece of jewellery that he had given to his wife. To divert the public's attention, the princess asks Adriana to recite something. The actress chooses Phaedra's monologue as an exposé of a two-faced woman who’s capable of committing a crime without so much as blushing. This is an almost unbridled attack on her rival. While everyone else praises Adriana's acting skills, the princess swears her revenge.
In Adriana’s room
Adriana is convinced that Maurizio no longer loves her, which is why she’s left the stage to live in solitude. Outside her room, Michonnet waits for the actress to wake up. Adriana's colleagues from the Comédie-Française arrive to celebrate her name day, persuading her to return to their troupe. Michonnet has used his inheritance money to redeemed Adriana's jewels, which she pawned to pay for Maurizio's military expenses in Courland. Moved by her colleagues’ and Michonnet’s kind actions, Adriana agrees to return to the stage.
A box of violets arrives, addressed from Maurizio, which Adriana had given to her lover on the night of the performance of Bajazet. Before she throws the flowers into fire, Adriana inhales the scent of the wilted bouquet. Suddenly, she feels a cold seize her entire body.
At Michonnet’s invitation, Maurizio arrives. He renews his wows of love and loyalty to Adriana. However, gripped by pain and sorrow, Adriana rejects him, mentioning the box with the wilted violets. Maurizio protests that he knows nothing about the box or the flowers. Horrified, he realises that they were a means of the princess’s terrible revenge. Under their influence, Adriana is hallucinating. She seems to think that she’s back on stage with her audience again. Just before she dies, she declares that she has become Melpomene, the muse of tragedy.