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Oper in four acts

Francesco Cilèa (1866-1950) was the last representative of a generation of composers who had a decisive influence on Italian opera around 1900. Outside of his homeland, he is known today only for "Adriana Lecouvreur", which is a rarity sometimes found on the repertoire.
In 1899 Cilèa decided to set the popular stage work "Adrienne Lecouvreur" by Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé to music; at that time great actresses like Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse had the play in their repertoire. The plot goes back to a social scandal that had taken place in Paris over 100 years earlier: one of the most famous actresses had been murdered by a noblewoman out of jealousy. The fusion of comedy and tragedy in an 18th century setting and the passionate love of the protagonist particularly appealed to Cilèa.
While Puccini's opera "Tosca" (1900) put the tragic fate of a singer and a painter on stage against a historical background, Cilèa turned his attention to the story of a famous actress of the Comédie française: Count Moritz (Maurizio) of Saxony falls in love with Adrienne (Adriana) Lecouvreur, but his former lover, the Princess of Bouillon, tries to win him back. Finally, she soaks a bouquet of flowers that Adriana has previously given Maurizio with deadly poison and sends it back to Adriana, whose life is extinguished by the sweet scent: She dies in Maurizio's arms.
The premiere of the opera in Milan in 1902 (with Enrico Caruso, Angelica Pandolfini and Giuseppe de Luca in the main roles) was extraordinarily successful. The press declared "Adriana Lecouvreur" to be the most successful opera of the last ten years. Francesco Cilèa, however, gradually withdrew as an opera composer; by the time he died in 1950, new styles had long since established themselves.

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