Tra le grandi interpretazioni di Mario Del Monaco, quella del protagonista nell’ Andrea Chénier di Umberto Giordano è sicuramente una delle più complete e significative. Un ruolo in cui la straordinaria personalità e il temperamento drammatico del cantante potevano esprimersi al meglio. La forza espressiva del fraseggio di Del Monaco, il declamato stupendamente scolpito e l’ esplosività degli acuti fanno di questa impersonificazione un modello assoluto di riferimento. Uno di quei casi in cui si può fare diversamente ma è difficile, quasi impossibile, fare meglio.
Mario Del Monaco aveva studiato la parte con Umberto Giordano, a cui era stato presentato dal direttore d’ orchestra Antonino Votto e che volle prepararlo personalmente in occasione del suo debutto nel ruolo, a Valdagno nel 1946. Il compositore annotò sul suo spartito modifiche e consigli interpretativi e Del Monaco tenne da allora e fino alla morte sul suo pianoforte nel salone di Villa Luisa a Lancenigo la foto autografata di Giordano, con la dedica: “Al mio caro Chénier”. Il 6 marzo 1949 il tenore fiorentino esordì con questo ruolo sul palcoscenico della Scala ricostruita da tre anni, accanto a Renata Tebaldi e Paolo Silveri, sotto la direzione di una bacchetta leggendaria come Victor De Sabata. Fu questo per molti aspetti lo spettacolo che segnò la definitiva consacrazione di Mario Del Monaco come star assoluta del firmamento tenorile. Fu un trionfo che fece epoca, tanto che la direzione del teatro dovette far installare degli altoparlanti in Piazza della Scala a causa dell’ enorme numero di spettatori che non erano riusciti a procurarsi un biglietto. Nel 1954 il tenore fiorentino interpretò la parte in una nuova produzione al Met di New York, dove l’ opera non era più stata rappresentata da quasi venticinque anni. Fu un trionfo che fece epoca. Del Monaco raccontava sempre che ad una replica gli spettatori della balconata srotolarono un enorme striscione con la scritta “Viva Mario Del Monaco, il Re dei Tenori!”. Questa è la recensione di Douglas Watts per New York News:
The Met revealed its brand-new production of Umberto Giordano’s lusty opera, “Andrea Chénier,” last night and left little doubt that the French Revolution really had been conducted in Italy. This handsome, vigorous revival of a work that has been off the Met boards from 23 years should be one of the hits of the season, and Mrs. John D, Rockefeller Jr., who put up the money for it, should be enormously pleased with herself this morning.
With the robust singing voices of Zinka Milanov, Leonard Warren, and Mario Del Monaco giving their all in the central roles, spirited conducting by Fausto Cleva, arresting and towering new scenery by Frederick Fox and excellent staging by Dino Yannopoulos, the thing couldn’t miss.
This is not one of the company’s fancy and fussy restorations, of which we have several examples over recent years. As a matter of fact, the whole show, despite its newness, looks smooth and seasoned. Even Fox’s immense sets (it took half an hour to change them between acts) have a substantial and used (not worn) appearance, as if they might have been lived in for years. A word here, too, for his costumes, which are properly handsome for the aristocracy and properly drab for the revolutionaries.
The music, the singing and the playing are overwhelming in this production, and not the trappings, despite their magnificence. For Giordano’s score is most ingratiating. It has some of the sweep of Verdi and some of the lyric charm of Puccini, without possessing the genius of either. Its weakness lies in its lack of clear definition; but it is charming, all the same.
Warren, playing the revolutionary, Gerard, was the triumphant performer last night, singing with artistry and fervor, and he won a well-deserved ovation from the audience for his role in the tribunal scene. Zinka Milanov sang beautifully, too, as Maddalena, and did a spellbinding job in the duet that closes the opera. As for Del Monaco – well, here is a young tenor with drive and a sure-fire stage personality and he made an exciting Chénier with his strong top tones and decisive acting. His singing is, for the most part, rough but compelling.
Del Monaco, by the way, appeared to be the only principal with a claque last night. It began hollering right in the middle of his big first-act aria and stopped the show when this aria was finished. But Rudolf Bing has apparently had enough of this sort of thing and permitted no solo curtain calls at the ends of the acts. It was Milanov, Warren, and Del Monaco, hand in hand, each and every time.
In lesser roles, Herta Glaz, Salvatore Baccaloni, Rosalind Elias, and Alessio De Paolis all gave finished performances and although his singing abilities could scarcely be judged from his brief appearance, Louis Sgarro, making his debut with the company, carried himself impressively as a major-domo.
Di seguito, la critica di Max de Schauensee per il Philadelphia Bullettin, relativa alla recita del 23 novembre 1954:
The Met’s New ‘Chenier’ Applauded At Academy
The Metropolitan Opera Association opened its1954-55 season of six operas at the Academy of Music last night with a bang. Umberto Giordano’s veristic opera, “Andrea Chenier,” was presented before a brilliant capacity audience. Mario Del Monaco, Zinka Milanov and Leonard Warren formed a trio of stars in the principal roles and the conductor was Fausto Cieva.
“Andrea Chenier” had not been given here by the Metropolitan since November 25, 1930, when Beniamino Gigli, Rosa Ponselle and Mario Basiola were heard in principal roles. George Cehanovsky, who sang Fleville last night, was the only singer in the large cast who had also appeared on that other evening 24 years ago.
“Andrea Chenier” is one of the Metropolitan’s two new productions this year, and it proved a huge success. Although the Philadelphia Civic Company presented it here two years ago, Giordano’s best opera came as a novelty to most of last night’s audience and the prevailing emotion in the theater was one of surprise to find the opera so effective.
This is really no news to dyed- in-the-wool opera fans, for Giordano had an uncanny feeling for the theater and was able to express this gift in often telling terms. The opera abounds in rafter-shaking duets, arias and ensembles superimposed on a background of the French Revolution at high tide. The composer’s orchestration is refined and effective and his writing for the voice makes use of facile, far-flung melodies and strong declamatory style.
The opera was presented in new settings and costumes by Broadway designer Frederick Fox. These were elaborately effective, often massive, and evocative of this bloody period in the world’s history. Apparently, Mr. Fox’s scenery was not easy to manipulate, resulting in intermissions that totaled one hour and a half.
As to the singers, Mr. Del Monaco returns to America this year a greatly improved singer, His Chenier was the opera’s central figure, as it should be. This strong-voiced tenor of the brilliant high notes created an atmosphere of such vibrance in his first act. “Improviso,” that the house broke into that type of sustained applause which knows no counterfeit.
Poet of Revolution
Strikingly handsome and assured, Del Monaco has the largeness of utterance and the sincere conviction that cannot fail but hold an audience. Furthermore, his is the type of voice which, if it doesn’t exactly caress the ear, can send successions of small chills up and down one’s spine. Mr. Del Monaco has a native dignity as an actor and his Chenier seemed indeed the idealistic, amorous and unfortunate young poet of the Revolution.
Flanking the central character were Zinka Milanov’s Maddalena di Coigny and Leonard Warren’s Charles Gerard. Mme. Milanov’s sumptuous voice was lovely to hear last night. She was least effective in her one extended solo, “La mamma morta,” and most thrilling in the two tumultuous duets with Mr. Del Monaco. Leonard Warren made a real character out of Charles Gerard, acting the role better than any he has essayed here. The only thing one might desire of this excellent singer is more bite in some of the climaxes, notably the final bars of his big aria, “Lin di m’era di gioia.”
Outstanding in smaller roles were Nell Rankin as the old woman Madelon and Alessio de Paolis’ Incredibile. Also admirable were Rosalind Elias, Lorenzo Alvary, Frank Valentino, Norman Scott, Herta Glaz, Lawrence Davidson, Osie Hawkins, Louis Sgarro and Gabor Carelli in character vignettes that all added to the total effect.
Mr. Cleva conducted with brilliance and energy. Sometimes one might have desired a more flexible attitude toward the singers, but Mr. Cleva never drowned them out, which is an easy temptation in this colorfully orchestrated opera. The final duet – one of the most thrilling moments in all grand opera if presented in the grand style – found the audience cheering Mme. Milanov and Mr. Del Monaco, who gave themselves to the moment without any reservations.
Fortunatamente, il ruolo di Chénier è uno di quelli meglio documentati nella discografia di Mario Del Monaco. Oltre all’ incisione ufficiale realizzata dalla DECCA nel 1954, possediamo infatti la registrazione di brani dello spettacolo scaligero del 1949 già menzionato, quella del 1954 a Napoli con Anna De Cavalieri e Aldo Protti, la tramissione radio dell’ esecuzione del Metropolitan con Zinka Milanov e Leonard Warren, avvenuta il 4 dicembre dello stesso anno e la celebre ripresa scaligera con Maria Callas e ancora Protti, del 6 gennaio 1955. Oltre a questi documenti audio, abbiamo due riprese video: quella realizzata in studio per la RAI nel 1955 e una registrazione della diretta televisiva della NHK di una recita tenuta a Tokyo il primo ottobre 1961. Vi propongo la prima delle due; accanto al fantastico Andrea Chénier di Del Monaco, il cast comprende Antonietta Stella come Maddalena e Giuseppe Taddei nel ruolo di Gérard. Un’ esecuzione straordinaria, sotto tutti i punti di vista.
IL CAST COMPLETO
Maddalena di Coigny……….Antonietta Stella
Andrea Chénier………………Mario Del Monaco
Charles Gérard……………….Giuseppe Taddei
La Contessa di Coigny………Maria Amadini
La Mulatta Bersi……………..Luisa Mandelli
Il Sanculotto Mathieu……….Leo Pudis
Un “Incredibile”…………….Athos Cesarini
Il Romanziero………………..Antonio Sacchetti
Pietro Fléville………………..Antonio Sacchetti
L`Abate………………………..Salvatore di Tommasi
Il Maestro di Casa……………Egidio Casolari
Scene……………………………Filippo Corradi Cervi
Orchestra e Coro della RAI di Milano
Angelo Questa, direttore
Roberto Benaglio, maestro del coro
Mario Landi, regista