Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

Glyndebourne Opera Cup 2018: semi-finalists announced

The semi-finalists for the first Glyndebourne Opera Cup have been announced. Following a worldwide search that attracted nearly 200 entries, and preliminary rounds in Berlin, London and Philadelphia, 23 singers aged 21-28 have been chosen to compete in the semi-final at Glyndebourne on 22 March.

ENO announces Studio Live casts and three new Harewood Artists

English National Opera (ENO) has announced the casts for Acis and Galatea and Paul Bunyan, 2018’s two ENO Studio Live productions. ENO Studio Live forms part of ENO Outside which takes ENO’s work to arts-engaged audiences that may not have considered opera before, presenting the immense power of opera in more intimate studio and theatre environments.

Handel in London: 2018 London Handel Festival

The 2018 London Handel Festival explores Handel’s relationship with the city. Running from 17 March to 16 April 2018, the Festival offers four weeks of concerts, talks, walks & film screenings explore masterpieces by Handel, from semi-staged operas to grand oratorio and lunchtime recitals.

Dartington International Summer School & Festival: 70th anniversary programme

Internationally-renowned Dartington Summer School & Festival has released the course programme for its 70th Anniversary Summer School and Festival, curated by the pianist Joanna MacGregor, that will run from 28th July to 25th of August 2018.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Barrie Kosky's Carmen at Covent Garden

Carmen is dead. Long live Carmen. In a sense, both Bizet’s opera and his gypsy diva have been ‘done to death’, but in this new production at the ROH (first seen at Frankfurt in 2016) Barrie Kosky attempts to find ways to breathe new life into the show and resurrect, quite literally, the eponymous temptress.

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Satyagraha at English National Opera

The second of Philip Glass’s so-called 'profile' operas, Satyagraha is magnificent in ENO’s acclaimed staging, with a largely new cast and conductor bringing something very special to this seminal work.

Mahler Symphony no 8—Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

From the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, a very interesting Mahler Symphony no 8 with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The title "Symphony of a Thousand" was dreamed up by promoters trying to sell tickets, creating the myth that quantity matters more than quality. For many listeners, Mahler 8 is still a hard nut to crack, for many reasons, and the myth is part of the problem. Mahler 8 is so original that it defies easy categories.

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

Ilker Arcayürek at Wigmore Hall

The first thing that struck me in this Wigmore Hall recital was the palpable sincerity of Ilker Arcayürek’s artistry. Sincerity is not everything, of course; what we think of as such may even be carefully constructed artifice, although not, I think, here.

Lisette Oropesa sings at Tucson Desert Song Festival

On January 30, 2018, Arizona Opera and the Tucson Desert Song Festival presented a recital by lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa in the University of Arizona’s Holsclaw Hall. Looking like a high fashion model in her silver trimmed midnight-blue gown, the singer and pianist Michael Borowitz began their program with Pablo Luna’s Zarzuela aria, “De España Vengo.” (“I come from Spain”).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Giacomo Puccini: La Rondine
08 Mar 2010

Puccini: La Rondine

Throughout his relatively long and decidedly successful career, Giacomo Puccini returned to those operas of his that had not, immediately or eventually, secured an important place in the standard repertory.

Giacomo Puccini: La Rondine

Magda: Svetla Vassileva; Lisette: Maya Dashuk; Ruggero: Fabio Sartori; Prunier: Emanuele Giannino; Rambaldo: Marzio Giossi; Périchaud: Fernando Ciuffo; Gobin: Giorgio Berrugi; Crébillon: Andrea Patucelli; Yvette: Polina Volfson; Bianca: Alessandra Meozzi; Suzy: Annunziata Vestri; Fleury: Katia De Sarlo; Mariette: Chang Chiung Wen; Roro: Elisabetta Lombardo; Un maggiordomo: Alessando Manghesi. Puccini Festival Chorus and Orchestra. Alberto Veronesi, conductor. Recorded live from the 53rd Puccini Festival, Torre del Lago, Italy, on 8, 10 and 16 August 2007.

Naxos 2.110266 [DVD]

$29.49  Click to buy

In blunter terms — his failures. He never got Edgar into any kind of shape to save it from obscurity, although the Puccini name still managed to get the opera recorded a time or two, and a recent “discovery” of some alternative material led to a production, available on DVD, with Jose Cura in the lead. With La Rondine, the “Traviata-lite” story of a pampered, kept woman (Magda) and her sad attempt at finding true love with a young man rich in good looks but poor in dollars, the gorgeous music Puccini composed has gotten the opera a fair amount of attention. As an alternative to another round of the master’s ubiquitous La Boheme, there’s a refreshing aspect to La Rondine. Nevertheless, a production that can truly make the opera’s narrative work has not appeared (except possibly to those besotted, understandably so, with the beauty of the score). An opera should build to its final act; La Rondine collapses as that point. The title character’s love interest, Ruggero, is so one-dimensional that he makes Traviata’s Alfredo seem like Hamlet, and the decision Magda makes when she realizes her past will always thwart their happiness (the “swallow” flies away) comes off as unmotivated or irrational.

Interestingly, for the 1998 Washington National Opera performance that Decca offers on DVD, director Marta Domingo opted for a later revision where Puccini thought a tragic ending would make the third act viable. Here, Magda not only realizes her past will obliterate any chance for happiness, not just this one with Ruggero, and so at opera’s end she walks into the sea (here a cloud of fog) to end it all. In Michael Scott’s lovely seaside cottage setting, the scene plays effectively in itself, but still feels like no resolution to the story and characters of the much lighter first two acts. The odd mix of the libretto is reflected in the names of the librettists: Dr. A. M. Willner, Heinz Reichert, and Giuseppe Adami. Three librettists walk into an EU bar, the joke might begin.

Domingo’s direction of the first two acts gets too busy at times — all the supers in the second act cafe scene make too much noise during lighter scored music — but she has an attractive cast. Inva Mula’s career now takes her to main stages (more in Europe, perhaps) and major roles; here she sings Lisette, a light role in a light opera, and Mula charms. As her poet boyfriend, Richard Troxell gets to camp it up a bit, and thankfully he knows not to let that get annoying. Ruggero is a good role for Marcus Haddock. He is not a tenor who brings much dramatic face to any performance anyway, so the role of a callow, smitten rube doesn’t tax him. The voice remains able but unmemorable.

Ainhoa Arteta’s Magda makes this a Rondine that flies above the competition. Her tone remains feminine in the more challenging moments — especially the tricky high notes of Doretta’s song, which need float — and in the conversational sections, her complete assumption of the character shines through. When Arteta takes center stage, Puccini’s inspiration matches his craftsmanship. Elsewhere, more than in any of his other operas, a sense of the great composer operating on auto-pilot can’t be evaded. Conductor Emmanuel Villaume treats both the lesser and greater parts of the score with great taste and care.

The booklet essay in the Naxos DVD of the 2007 Puccini festival staging blandly states that this is “yet another version” of the opera. Here, Ruggero rejects Magda at the end, leaving her devastated. Surely Puccini considered this option in an attempt to make Ruggero minimally interesting, and just as surely he rejected it because it goes against the concept of Magda as “swallow,” light and mobile. Director Lorenzo Amato’s solution to that problem is to bring a giant bird cage on at the end. Get it? But just in case the viewer needs more help, on a rear screen a sketch of a bird skull is projected (sets and costumes are by Nall).

Domingo’s staging for Washington maybe be too pretty for some, but anyone looking for ugliness in a Rondine production should be fully satisfied by Amato and Nall’s efforts. Unfortunately, the singing offers little beauty in compensation. Soprano Svetla Vassileva has too heavy and dark a voice for Magda. Fabio Sartori also has more voice than he needs as Ruggero; if it were a more attractive instrument, viewers might be able to overlook the fact that Sartori — a hefty, plain man — isn’t very convincing as a country lad who turns the head of a high class Parisian courtesan. Maya Dashuk as Lisette makes the best impression of the rest of the cast. In fact, the designer of the packaging apparently thought the blond and attractive Dashuk was the star, as her portrait appears on the front cover, not Vassileva’s. Alberto Veronesi leads the Puccini festival forces in an efficient performance, though perhaps recorded a bit loud and thus harsh hearing at times.

Perhaps the Metropolitan Opera’s HD moviecast with Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna will come to DVD — that would be strong competition for the Washington Opera set. The Naxos is recommended only for the morbidly inclined.

Chris Mullins

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):