Major Operas | Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilea | Turn of the Century

Composed: 1902
Premiered: 1902, Milan
Libretto by Arturo Colautti, after Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé’s play Adrienne Lecouvreur

Act I

Backstage at the Comédie-Française, the stage manager Michonnet tries to propose to the actress Adriana Lecouvreur, but she loves Maurizio, who is the Count of Saxony in disguise. She gives Maurizio some violets. An intercepted letter of assignation, believed to be from another actress, is actually with Maurizio’s former lover, the Principessa di Bouillon. Her husband plans to surprise them and invites Adriana after Maurizio has broken an earlier assignation.

Act II

To allay her suspicions, Maurizio gives the violets to the Principessa, who hides when her husband arrives. Adriana is told of Maurizio’s identity. He admits that there is another woman in the next room, but their relationship is political, not romantic. He asks her to help the unknown woman to escape. From the few words they exchange in the dark, it is evident that both love Maurizio. As the Principessa escapes, Adriana acquires her bracelet.


Maurizio has been arrested on the Principessa’s orders, but Adriana has pawned her jewels to release him. The Principessa recognizes Adriana’s voice and tells her that Maurizio has been fatally wounded in a duel. He enters, very much alive. The two women snipe at each other. The Principe identifies his wife’s bracelet. Adriana recites a speech from Phèdre that makes the Principessa furious.

Act IV

Four actors and Michonnet, who has redeemed her jewels, try to persuade Adriana to return to the stage. The violets, now withered, arrive in a casket labelled ‘from Maurizio’. Believing their love is over, she kisses them and throws them on the fire. She is overjoyed when Maurizio asks her to marry him. Suddenly she is taken ill. The Principessa has had the violets sprinkled with poison. Delirious, Adriana dies.

Personalities | Francesco Cilea | Turn of the Century | Opera


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