Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.



Puccini Romance
11 Dec 2009

Puccini Romance

This disc faces a marketplace already crowded with similar compilations from major companies who can raid their archives to offer competitive interpretations at bargain prices.

Puccini Romance
Arias and duets from La Bohème, Tosca, Le Villi, La Fanciulla del West, Turandot and Madama Butterfly.

Antoinette Halloran, soprano; Rosario La Spina, tenor. The Queensland Orchestra. Stephen Mould, conductor.

ABC Classics 476 6404

$35.98  Click to buy

The main target is therefore the local audience who can currently see these two artists regularly singing with Opera Australia. None the less this disc has some attractions. They are not, however, in the musical layout. Multiple selections from an opera are presented out of order. This is less of an issue with operas like Madama Butterfly or Tosca, where the chosen excerpts are separated often by an entire act, but informed listeners will be amused by the four La Bohème items which places “O soave fanciulla” before “Che gelida manina” and “Sì, mi chiamo Mimi” so that the young couple declare their love before making their introductions. More amusing still is that ‘Mimi’s farewell’ follows immediately so having “come to bother you at an inconvenient time”, she immediately declares her intention to return alone to her solitary nest to make fake flowers!

Rosario La Spina has the makings of a good tenor. He has a bright ‘Italianate’ voice, if occasionally backwardly placed on some higher notes but the biggest irritant are the intrusive aspirates that occur throughout. They may assist him into top notes and give the impression of that ‘hairy-chested’ singing of the Del Monarco/Corelli variey but they become tiresome for repeated listening and the Tosca duet is riddled with them. He has a natural feeling for Italian, singing through diphthongs and making some beautiful sounds although his actual handling of the words is disappointing compared to the careful attention his partner Antoinette Halloran gives to the texts. His phrases are dully shaped, salient words or the emotions they convey are rarely pointed. It would be hard to imagine any soprano responding to his serenades, let alone undergoing the emotional and physical tortures Puccinian women suffer for their men.

Halloran is another bright and intelligent Australian soprano. Her Mimi and Butterfly are well thought out and characterised. In the ‘Dream’ aria from La Rondine her voice expands into a rich and well controlled forte. Her singing in the ‘Butterfly’ duet is the highlight.

The unsung, so to speak, heroes are conductor Stephen Mould and the orchestra, underpinning the moods and commenting on the characters like old troupers from an Italian house that play this music daily. In “Sì, mi chiamo Mimi”, the short, blunted phrases as she details her dull daily routine suddenly swell, as she mentions the pleasure spring flowers bring her, into beautiful arching phrases. La Spina, incidentally, is not on hand to sing ‘si’ when she asks “lei m’intende?” The disc ends with the “Butterfly” duet where the orchestra respond superbly; the harp passage as Butterfly begins to remove her wedding gown almost suggests its silken texture. Similarly, the horns in the closing moments throb with suggestive anticipation as Pinkerton urges Butterfly into his arms and bed. The low gong strike in that closing passage hovers in mid-air and the overall sound is in the demonstration class.

Michael Magnusson

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):