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

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017 - Winner Announced

Bampton Classical Opera is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2017 Young Singers’ Competition is mezzo-soprano Emma Stannard and the runner-up is tenor Wagner Moreira. The winner of the accompanists’ prize, a new category this year, is Keval Shah.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

Manon in San Francisco

Nothing but a wall and a floor (and an enormous battery of unseen lighting instruments) and two perfectly matched artists, the Manon of soprano Ellie Dehn and the des Grieux of tenor Michael Fabiano, the centerpiece of Paris’ operatic Belle Époque found vibrant presence on the War Memorial stage.

Garsington Opera’s Silver Birch on BBC Arts Digital

Audiences will have the chance to feel part of a new opera inspired by Siegfried Sassoon’s poems with an innovative 360-degree simulated experience of Garsington Opera’s Silver Birch on BBC Arts Digital from midday, Wednesday 8th November.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

A beguiling Il barbiere di Siviglia from GTO

I had mixed feelings about Annabel Arden’s production of Il barbiere di Siviglia when it was first seen at Glyndebourne in 2016. Now reprised (revival director, Sinéad O’Neill) for the autumn 2017 tour, the designs remain a vibrant mosaic of rich hues and Moorish motifs, the supernumeraries - commedia stereotypes cum comic interlopers - infiltrate and interact even more piquantly, and the harpsichords are still flying in, unfathomably, from all angles. But, the drama is a little less hyperactive, the characterisation less larger-than-life. And, this Saturday evening performance went down a treat with the Canterbury crowd on the final night of GTO’s brief residency at the Marlowe Theatre.

Brett Dean's Hamlet: GTO in Canterbury

‘There is no such thing as Hamlet,’ says Matthew Jocelyn in an interview printed in the 2017 Glyndebourne programme book. The librettist of Australian composer Brett Dean’s opera based on the Bard’s most oft-performed tragedy, which was premiered to acclaim in June this year, was noting the variants between the extant sources for the play - the First, or ‘Bad’, Quarto of 1603, which contains just over half of the text of the Second Quarto which published the following year, and the First Folio of 1623 - no one of which can reliably be guaranteed superiority over the other.

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):