You’ve sung together at the Met in La Traviata, Il Trovatore, and most recently Tosca. What’s different about the relationship between Maddalena and Andrea Chénier in Giordano’s French Revolution–era drama?
Marcelo Álvarez: Their relationship is purer and closer to what I believe to be the true meaning of love. They choose to die so they can be transported to eternal love. “Viva la morte insieme!” they sing at the end, which to me is a cry for the liberty of choosing what is really important in life.
Patricia Racette: Maddalena begins as a girlish rebel of sorts, she is somewhat impetuous and immature. It’s her reaction to Chénier’s explanation of love and life that changes her and opens the pathway for the rest of the plot to unfold. Tosca, on the other hand, is a mature woman who takes her fate into her own hands.
This is the first time you’re singing Maddalena. What made you decide to take on this role now?
PR: It falls in line vocally with the repertoire that has defined my career. Plus, Chénier is not performed that often, so I jumped at the chance to add Maddalena to my list of leading ladies. And the aria, “La mamma morta,” is truly spun gold in terms of vocalism. I love a great emotional journey, and this piece delivers that dramatic punch with a mix of pain and hope.
Marcelo, you get to sing some of Italian opera’s most dramatic music for tenor in this piece. Do you have a favorite moment?
MA: The music and the words in the “Improvviso,” the first aria, are beautiful. This is the moment where he expresses all the feelings and ideas I admire. He’s desperately trying to open the hearts of the decadent society around him, crying out to them, “You don’t know love—love is a divine gift.” I feel very close to Chénier. Every phrase he utters encourages a change toward the positive. I admire a man like him who fights to help the world change for the better.
The two of you will be reuniting next season for more verismo in David McVicar’s new production of Pagliacci, as part of the double bill with Cavalleria Rusticana. What are you most looking forward to about this project?
PR: To me, complicated and conflicted characters are the most interesting to portray. The old adage goes, “There is a thin line between love and hate,” and certainly the tension and pain between Canio and Nedda contrasts with the passion and lust in overdrive between Nedda and Silvio. No doubt, Marcelo will bring a potent vocal and dramatic imprint to the famous clown, and I look forward to playing out this relationship, which is so different from our previous pairings.
MA: I love the challenge of making my debut in a new role at a big theater. My life is loaded with adrenalin. It is a huge challenge to sing both Canio and Turiddu in Cavalleria, but where best to debut them than at the Met! —Charles Sheek
This interview was first published online and in the Met's Playbill in March 2014.