Opera Scotland

Adriana Lecouvreur

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Francesco Cilea (born Palmi, 23 July 1866; died Varazza, 20 November 1950)

Arturo Colautti.

Drama Adrienne Lecouvreur (1849) by Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé.


First performance: Milan (Teatro Lirico), 16 November 1902.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 8 November 1904.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 27 August 1963.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.


The real Adrienne Lecouvreur (1692-1730) was a famous French actress, and a star of the Comédie Française. The plot is largely fictitious. Cilea’s opera is rarely performed in Britain but remains popular in Italy and the USA. The title role seems to be especially loved by sopranos late in their careers, where subtlety of approach is more important than sheer power. Her opening aria “Io son l’umile ancella” is particularly popular as an encore piece in recitals. When the San Carlo announced their visit to Edinburgh in 1963, the original plans included the great Renata Tebaldi as Adriana. However, when she dropped out, the ageless Magda Olivero, who was herself the composer’s favourite interpreter, replaced her.


Main Characters
Maurizio, Count of Saxony (tenor)
Prince de Bouillon (bass)
L’ abate di Chazeuil (tenor)
Michonnet, stage director of the Comédie Française (baritone)
Adriana Lecouvreur (soprano)
Princess de Bouillon (mezzo-soprano)


Plot Summary
Adriana loves Maurizio, not knowing his true aristocratic identity. She reveals her feelings to her friend Michonnet, unaware that he loves her himself. Just before she goes on stage she presents Maurizio with a posy of violets. The Prince and his friend the Abate find a note inviting Maurizio for an assignation. They think it is written by another actress, the Prince’s mistress, since it is inviting Maurizio to this woman’s house (presumably paid for by the Prince). He does not realise it is actually a note from his wife, who also loves Maurizio. When Maurizio arrives for his meeting with the Princess she is in a jealous rage, in the belief that he loves someone else. He therefore gives her the violets as a peace offering. Her husband has invited the theatricals to the house for a party, and they start to arrive, interrupting the tête-à-tête. Adriana, not aware of her identity, assists the Princess to escape and thus avoid embarrassment. When the Princess herself later hosts a soirée she identifies Adriana, by her distinctive voice, as the woman who had saved her, and in a fit of jealousy, shows Adriana the violets, now faded, which she still keeps. When Adriana suggests that the Princess is simply promiscuous, she determines on revenge. Some time later, Adriana is touched to receive a box of violets, and assumes they are from Maurizio. She dies as a result of inhaling their scent. They had been sent by the Princess, but tainted with poison.

The Cast

Abate di Chazeuil
 an abbé
Adriana Lecouvreur
 leading actress at the Comédie-Française
 Count of Saxony
 Stage Director of the Comédie-Française
Mlle Dangeville
 an actress
Mlle Jouvenot
 an actress
 an actor
Prince de Bouillon
Princesse de Bouillon
 an actor

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