Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

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):