Adriana Lecouvreur is the opera that brought definitive international fame to Francesco Cilea.
The libretto of Adriana Lecouvreur is based on the ”comédiedrame” by Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé. This theatrical pièce dated far back to 1849, but still enjoyed widespread popularity not only in France but also in Italy; especially as the role of Adriana had become a speciality number for great tragic actresses like Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse.
What is really striking in this opera is the organic, cohesive form that Cilea succeeds in bringing to the musical discourse, despite the fact that he is using a libretto which, in terms of its text, presents the characteristically fragmentary nature of Italian opera at the turn of the century. In the Calabrian musician’s opera, comedy and drama are balanced in a melodic flow where the polish of the musical line, the tenderly elegiac vein of the singing, the elements of eighteenth-century colour are blended with refined elegance.
There are, of course, moments of more blatant, emphatic theatricality, like for example the encounter of the two rivals in the second act; and again, in the third act, decorative, evocative elements are in the foreground.