The Met’s “new” Adriana Lecouvreur by David McVicar is a co-production with five other houses and premiered at the Royal Opera House eight years ago. Which, generally, isn’t a way I’d like to see the Met produce aside from particular circumstances. And Adriana, I suppose, is that sort of opera. The old production hadn’t been revived in 20 years and had been premiered at the Old Met. And it’s an opera you can only put on for a particular wattage of diva (actually two, plus tenor and baritone). You can’t trot it out and cast just anybody, so it doesn’t make too much sense to go all out on a production that’s going to spend most of its life in storage, and who among the somebodies will want to anchor a revival of some old thing?
So, a not-exactly new production with the costs spread widely is probably just the thing here. The “all the world’s a stage” setting is strikingly executed and not odd or inappropriate for what is at least in part a backstage story. McVicar places a working model Baroque theatre center stage and views it from all angles, deftly repurposing it for the scenes outside the theatre setting. Many a giant set piece is less well-managed in other productions. He doesn’t mess with time or place, but uses the single set piece to establish the various locations, picturesque without an excess of detail.
Oh, the diva(s)? Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili return to their fall rivalry (then as Aida and Amneris, now as Adriana and the Princess). Netrebko has the star power and vocalism to drive the show. She has her idiosyncrasies, of course, but they’re all a part of what makes her powerful and magnetic onstage. Rachvelishvili, by contrast, is rock-solid, a force of nature, and an excellent foil as the romantic rival (again). Piotr Becała displays his usual excellence as the man between them, and Ambrogio Maestri, whom I think I’ve seen largely in buffo-type roles, is surprisingly tender as the stage manager who’s always loved Adriana and always known he could never have her.
So, for all that the piece is put down as second-rate, it stands up as a showcase for the singers, who don’t for a moment short the drama or push it over the line to ridicule. See it in the house or in HD.