Owing to the abundant dramatic music and extreme emotionality, as well as the atmosphere of the story set in the time of the French Revolution, Andrea Chénier is one of the jewels of the period’s opera.
The style of the opera is distinctly Italian, with its sound colour and melody akin to that of Puccini and the forcibility of the crowd scenes reminiscent of Verdi’s late operas. The libretto was created by Luigi Illica, the author of the texts for La bohéme, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. For Giordano he adapted the story of the French poet André Chénier, one of the last victims of Robespierre’s Reign of Terror in 1793 and 1794.
Giordano’s opera describes the drama of a love triangle, featuring the young aristocrat Maddalena, the servant Gérard and the poet Chénier. As a result of the revolutionary events, the initially innocent flirtation turns into a desperate and wild passion – the persecuted Maddalena writes secret love letters to Chénier; Gérard, who has become a major representative of the Jacobin regime, abuses his power for his personal interest in Maddalena; while the dreamer Chénier, the omnipresent Terror notwithstanding, keeps believing in liberty, inspiration and love. Yet love amidst a revolution is a dangerous matter indeed.