Lets put aside the obvious. This is a wonderful recording, both in terms of picture and sound (the blu-ray specially glorious). McVicar's production is generally very good, with rich costumes; sort of traditional, but that's a good thing. Mark Elder treats with respect the score and has a great orchestra at his disposal. I don't think this opera has ever sounded better than here. The cast boasts star singers at their peak. Angela Gheorghiu is in excellent voice and Jonas Kaufmann sounds (and looks) magnificent. Olga Borodina and Alessandro Corbelli are very good too. I couldn't bring myself to giving it less than five stars. So here we have a truly great performance, wonderfully recorded, that can be recommended without reservations, right? Well... Not quite.
Adriana Lecouvreur has been sung by many divas (in some cases at the end of their careers). Somehow it must appeal to their oversized egos. It's a role that requires contrasting vocal resources, from very dramatic ousburts to moments of great delicacy and finesse. But also an oustanding personality that must fills the stage, a sort of radiance, in a word "grandeur". Gheorghiu doesn't lack ego, particularlly outside the stage. There are many stories going around, but you only need to listen to her in the interesting bonus "About Adriana" included in this release to realize that. She asked Covent Garden to stage the opera for her, after more of a century ignoring it, and she beleives to be part of a historical event. She also says SHE REALLY WAS Adriana on stage two days before. But to my eyes (and this is of course a subjective perception)she does not have that presence the role ideally asks for. She is coquettish, she is agitated (too agitated even) at almost all times, she acts girlish and she demands attention... but she is not grand. And there are vocal problems as well. Gheorghiu has a good voice, but her lyric soprano cannot fulfill all the demands of the role. She sounds underpowered in some key moments and her important and very dramatic declamation at the end of the third act lacks a force that cannot be disguised simply by hitting your chest. Don't get me wrong, hers is a comitted and very good performance that I would be glad to encounter live in any theatre. But unfortunately there are other recordings that show quite clearly what we're missing here. Particularly a Tokyo performance by Caballé in 1976 (Adriana Lecouvreur [DVD] ). I have rewiewed it already and won't repeat myself. To mention just one example, Gheorghious' Poveri fiori is very good, but Caballe's (sung in what seems a single breath) is pure magic. Gheorghiou is excellent, but Caballé gave a legendary performance, very committed dramatically as well (so much for those that keep repeating she couldn't act); hers was singing for the ages. So by all means get this Covent Garden's recording. I will be returning to it for its overall excellence, great production and recording values, and Jonas Kaufmann's brilliant performance, both vocally and dramatically. But you should also give a chance to that Tokyo performance if you want to experience how magical Adriana de Lecouvreur (and opera) can be.