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Theatre / Andrea Chenier

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Andrea Chénier is a verismo opera by Umberto Giordano, with a libretto by Luigi Illica (famous also for his work with Giacomo Puccini), first performed in 1896. The plot is based on the life of a poet André Chénier who was guillotined in 1794 during the French Revolution.

There is the usual tenor-soprano-baritone love triangle, with Chénier falling in love with Maddalena de Coigny, a young countess, who is forced to go into hiding after the revolution breaks out. Meanwhile, Gérard, formerly a servant at the Coigny household and now one of the revolutionary leaders, has also loved Maddalena since childhood, and it induces him to write down charges against the poet, effectively dooming him to the guillotine. However, when Maddalena comes to plead for her beloved, Gérard is overcome with remorse and tries to help Chénier, but in vain – the latter's sentenced to death. Maddalena switches places with a condemned noblewoman and goes to the guillotine with her beloved.

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The opera contains examples of:

  • Beneath Notice: The servants' fate at the de Coigny household.
  • Bigotry Exception: In the beginning of the first act, Gérard sings about how he wants all aristocrats to die. Maddalena excluded, of course.
  • Break the Cutie: Maddalena starts as a Wide-Eyed Idealist without a care in the world. It gets... very much worse.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The character of Gérard is based on the real-life figure of Jean-Lambert Tallien, but Tallien himself also exists in the opera’s universe.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Played with concerning Tragic Villain Gérard (a baritone). However, the really nasty Incroyable is a character tenor.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: As Gérard puts it, "the revolution devours its children".
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Maddalena.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Bersi, Maddalena's former maidservant, turns to prostitution to support herself and Maddalena after the revolution.
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  • Hope Spot: The moment when Maddalena forgives Gérard, and the latter enthusiastically proclaims he will certainly save Chénier.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Both Maddalena and her mother towards the lower classes in the beginning.
  • Killed Offscreen: Maddalena's mother, who was killed at the door to her daughter's room as the rebels torched the estate.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Gérard, who even lampshades it when confessing his feelings to Maddalena.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Gérard realizes just how low he had sunk when Maddalena offers herself to him in exchange for Chénier's life.
  • Oblivious to Love: For twenty-odd years (although how much of it is love can be called into question). Even after Gérard grabs Maddalena in the second act (shouting her name in the process), she doesn't realize what (whom) he's after.
    Maddalena: I don't know if you still remember me. I'm Maddalena de Coigny.
    Gérard: I have waited for you! I have arrested your lover to lure you to me!
    Maddalena: Why, then, do you want me here?
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  • Recycled Plot: Has numerous similarities with Tosca, and the librettist is the same.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: As some critics dub it, the trial run for the Trope Namer. Subverted, as Gérard backs away at the last moment.
    • And it's discussed by the Incroyable as he convinces Gérard to go through with ordering Chénier's arrest.
  • Stalker with a Crush: In the first act, Gérard watches Maddalena getting dressed for the ball. In the third, we learn it was far from the only time.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Swings between that and Friendly Enemy with the male leads. Gérard and Chénier are in complete agreement concerning the true revolutionary ideals, but Gérard is insanely jealous of him and Maddalena.
  • The Tragic Rose: Maddalena is sometimes associated with roses.
    • She wears a rose to the ball in the first act.
    • Gérard associates their childhood games with the wild roses' smell.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Gérard arrives at this conclusion by the end of his famous third-act aria. The revolution is all blood and gore, he has forsaken his high goals for personal ambition, he’s planning to send an innocent man to the guillotine and force himself on the man’s girlfriend – oh well, whatever, one can’t fight fate. He regrets it later, though.
  • Together in Death: Chénier and Maddalena.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Gérard for Maddalena.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: "Long live Gérard!" Not surprising, since he is an Anti-Villain who genuinely sympathizes with the commons.
  • Villainous Advice Song: The Incroyable's Donnina innamorata. "There are two parts in a woman: the heart and the body. Settle for the body, it's the better one!"
  • Warrior Poet: Chénier. "Yes, I was a soldier" is the start of his defense speech, and he's definitely no wimp.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Gérard. From a servant to one of the revolutionary leaders.
  • You Are Too Late: Even Gérard, with his gift of making passionate speeches, can't save Chénier from the Tribunal.
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