Adriana Lecouvreur



While the circumstances of the death of the famous actress Adrienne Lecouvreur in 1730 remain mysterious, those of her funeral are well known. The parish priest of Saint-Sulpice refused her any ceremony and access to the cemetery. She was buried almost clandestinely in quicklime, in wasteland on the banks of the Seine, to Voltaire’s great indignation.

(Source: La Comédie Française)


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Libretto by Arturo Colautti, based on Eugène Scribe et Ernest Legouvé

Paris, 1730, the famous tragedian Adriana Lecouvreur and the Princess of Bouillon are in love with the same man, Maurice de Saxe, marshal of the French army. After many ups and downs, they discover their rivalry. On her birthday, Adriana dies in the arms of Maurice, who has just reaffirmed his love for her, poisoned by the fatal scent of the bouquet of violets sent by her rival.

Adriana Lecouvreur is the sole work by Francesco Cilea, a composer close to the verismo movement, which has remained in the repertoire of the greatest opera houses. The story of this 18th century famous, controversial and ill-fated actress and tragedian, admired by Voltaire, is literally part of French history. Based on real facts, the life of Adrienne was fictionalised by Eugène Scribe and brought to the stage in 1849, with the great Sarah Bernhardt in the title role. The subject soon showed its full operatic potential. Arturo Colautti, Cilea’s librettist, wanted to turn it into an opera. The work, based around a love rivalry, the spirit of vengeance and love, is deeply touching. With a sumptuous orchestra, beautiful arias and virtuosity channelled into the emotions, everything conspired to make this score a triumph at its premiere in Milan in 1902, especially since a certain Enrico Caruso excelled in the exceedingly difficult role of Maurice de Saxe (Maurizio). Since then, its success has never waned.

  • Most recent performance at the ORW
    March 1990
  • New production
    Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège
  • With the support of
    Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral Belge