Adriana Lecouvreur Synopsis

Francesco Cilea's Four Act Opera

19th and 20th Century Italian composer Francesco Cilea, wrote the opera Adriana Lecourvreur. The opera premiered in Milan at the Teatro Lirico theater in Milan, Italy on November 6th, 1902. Its narrative takes place in Paris in the early 18th Century, specifically the year 1730.

The Story of Adriana Lecouvreur

Adriana Lecouvreur, Act 1

Behind the curtain, actors and actresses busily rush about the stage as the stage manager, Michonnet tries to get things in order before the performance.  Prince de Bouillon, an admirer of the actress Duclos, brings his friend, the Abbé, to visit backstage.  Adriana walks across the stage as she recites her lines in preparation.  After receiving a compliment from the Prince, she sings an aria crediting God for her creative spirit.  The Prince hears from a passing stagehand that Duclos is writing a letter, and decides to intercept it.  When Adriana and Michonnet are alone, Michonnet tells her that he loves her.  Adriana gently lets him down by telling him that she already has a lover - a soldier serving for the Count of Saxony.  However, unknown to Adriana, her lover is actually the Count of Saxony himself, and he shows up just before the performance to tell her he loves her.  They agree to go out after the performance.  Adriana gives him a few violets to place on his lapel before he departs to the front of the house.  Meanwhile, the Prince and the Abbé enter after successfully intercepting Duclos’ letter. It is addressed to the Count, and inside, a request for a secret meeting after the performance near the Prince’s villa.  Hoping to expose them, the Price arranges a party at his house for the entire cast and crew.  The Prince makes sure Duclos’ letter is delivered to the Count.  When the Count receives it, he writes a note to Adriana, canceling their meeting.  Adriana agrees to attend the Prince’s cast party.  

Adriana Lecouvreur, Act 2

Inside the Prince’s villa, the Princess awaits the Count’s arrival.  She is in love with him, and when he enters, she wonders about the violets on his lapel.  When she asks, he takes them off his jacket and gives them to her.  He thanks her for helping him in court and tells her that he doesn’t love her anymore.  She accuses him of having another lover, but he doesn’t admit it.  When the Prince and the Abbé are heard approaching the house, the Princess quickly hides.  It dawns on the Count that the Prince and the Abbé believe he is secretly meeting Duclos.  Adriana enters the house and is surprised to find her lover.  He reveals his true identity and convinces her that he is only there for political reasons.   He asks her for help in helping the hidden woman escape.  Adriana agrees to help him.  The lights are turned off, and in the dark, Adriana finds the Princess and tells her that it is safe for her to escape.  However, the Princess is wary of Adriana and the two begin to argue.   The Princess finally storms out of the house, dropping her bracelet in the process.  Michonnet arrives and finds the bracelet on the ground and gives it to Adriana.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Act 3

As a result of his court case, the Count was found guilty and thrown in prison because of his debts.  Meanwhile, the Princess has become obsessed with finding out the identity of the Count’s other lover - the woman who helped her escape in the dark.  The Prince examines a very lethal poison as asked by the government.  After putting it away, he joins the others for a reception at The Hôtel de Bouillon.  The Princess mingles with everyone while simultaneously trying to find her rival.  After Adriana and Michonnet arrive, they are greeted by the Princess.  After speaking with them, she recognizes Adriana’s voice and is convinced she is her rival.  To put her theory to test, she announces that the Count has been wounded in a duel.  Adriana faints.  Thankfully, the Count was released from jail and arrives at the reception moments after Adriana collapsed.  Adriana is overjoyed to discover that the Count is unharmed.  She confronts the Princess and they soon challenge each other over the Count.  The Princess points out that the bracelet Adriana is wearing was hers.  She sharply “suggests” Adriana should perform a scene from Ariadne abandoned, hoping her talent will fall flat.  The Prince overhears her request and asks Adriana to perform a scene from Phèdre instead.   Adriana wisely recites a few lines that only the Princess knows are an attack on her.  The Princess tells her self she’ll have her revenge.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Act 4

Michonnet waits inside Adriana’s home as she angrily paces back and forth.  Members of the cast and crew stop by her home to deliver presents on her name day and try to convince her to return to the theater.  Michonnet presents her with a beautiful diamond neckless, the same one she previously sold in order to help the Count pay off his debts.  A small casket is delivered to her.  Inside it, she finds a small note and the violets she gave to the Count.  Hurt by the fact that he would send the flowers back to her, she takes them out of the box and kisses them before throwing them into the fire.  Just then, the Count comes in and asks her to marry him.  Confused, but still very much in love with him, they hug each other tightly.  The Count notices that she is shaking.  He tells her he did not send his flowers back to her.  Adriana takes a few steps back and begins acting erratically.  Michonnet and the Count realize that the flowers must have been laced with poison.  When Adriana is lucid for a brief moment, she dies.

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