Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

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.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Antonin Dvořák: The Cunning Peasant (Šelma Sedlák)

What an enjoyable opportunity to encounter Dvořák’s sixth opera, Šelma Sedlák¸or The Cunning Peasant!

Idomeneo, Royal Opera

Whether biblical parable or mythological moralising, it’s all the same really: human hubris, humility, sacrifice and redemption.

Donizetti’s Les Martyrs — Opera Rara, London

Opera Rara brought a rare performance of Donizetti’s first opera for the Paris Opera to the Royal Festival Hall on 4 November 2014, following recording sessions for the opera.

Luca Pisaroni in San Diego

Bass baritone, Luca Pisaroni, known to opera lovers throughout the world for his excellence in Mozart roles, offered San Diego vocal aficionados a double treat on October 28th: his mellifluous voice, and a recital of German songs.

La bohème, ENO

Jonathan Miller’s production of La bohème for ENO, shared with Cincinnati Opera, sits uneasily, at least as revived by Natascha Metherell, between comedy and tragedy.

Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall - Liszt, Strauss and Schubert

Any Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau performance is superb, but this Wigmore Hall recital surprised, too. Boesch's Schubert is wonderful, but this time, it was his Liszt and Strauss songs which stood out. This year at the Wigmore Hall, we've heard a lot of Liszt and a lot of Richard Strauss everywhere, establishing high standards, but this was special.

Wexford Festival 2014

The weather was auspicious for Wexford Festival Opera’s first-night firework display — mild, clear and calm. But, as the rainbow rockets exploded over the River Slaney, even bigger bangs were being made down at the quayside.

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

La rondine [image courtesy of Opera Holland Park]
12 Jul 2011

La rondine, Opera Holland Park

Opera Holland Park’s unique selling point has always been a devotion to the more obscure works of Puccini and his Italian contemporaries.

Giacomo Puccini: La rondine

Magda: Kate Ladner; Ruggero: Seán Ruane; Lisette: Hye Youn Lee; Prunier: Hal Cazalet; Rambaldo: Nicholas Todorovic; Perichaud: Henry Grant Kerswell; Crebillion/Rabonier: Maciek O’Shea; Gobin: Patrick Mundy; Bianca/Gabriela: Sarah Minns; Suzy/Lolette: Olivia Ray; Yvette/Georgette: Stephanie Bodsworth; Una voce interno: Anna Patalong; Il Maggiordomo: Geoffrey Thompson. Opera Holland Park Chorus. City of London Sinfonia. Conductor: Peter Selwyn. Director: Tom Hawkes. . Designer: Peter Rice. Lighting Designer: Colin Grenfell. Choreographer: Jenny Weston. Opera Holland Park, July 2011.

Above: La rondine [image courtesy of Opera Holland Park]

 

Last time OHP staged La rondine it still fell into this category, and until that year, there had been no London staging of the piece for decades. But the gorgeous, star-studded EMI recording of 1996 had revived interest in the piece, and in 2002 the Royal Opera (with the Magda and Ruggero of the EMI set, Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna) mounted its first-ever Rondine, pipping OHP to the post by a matter of weeks. Despite the fact that the ROH production must have been in the pipeline for a while, the timing seemed almost impolite.

At every turn of La rondine there is a reminder of Puccini’s earlier work; the pentatonicism of Butterfly, the dreamy end-of-act exits of Bohème (La rondine goes so far as to end every act with one), the bustling ensembles of Manon Lescaut. And the tenor aria in the middle of Act 1, ‘Parigi’, sounds like an afterthought inspired by ‘Firenze’ from the later Gianni Schicchi — which, of course, is exactly what it is, having not been part of the original score. But somehow La rondine still manages to be unique among Puccini’s output, a drama with comic episodes that has a flavour all of its own.

Nine years after that pair of London stagings, this lovely piece has managed to maintain... well, perhaps not a firm foothold in the repertoire, but certainly a presence. There has been a revival of the Covent Garden production, and a staging by British Youth Opera. Now it is back at Holland Park in a brand-new staging, no longer one of the season’s novelty pieces but a tried and tested crowd-pleaser. It says much in its favour that the entire run is sold out.

Tom Hawkes’s production updates the action to around the time of the opera’s composition — it premiered in 1917, under the shadow of World War 1. Designer Peter Rice transforms the stage with an elegant arc of Rennie Mackintosh-inspired metalwork which acts as the uniting factor for all three scenes of the opera. Each act has its own colour scheme; Magda’s chic soirée is mostly muted pastels and silver, while much of the clientèle of Bullier’s bar is edgy monochrome with bold-coloured accents. Both of these situations provide a backdrop for Magda to stand out from the crowd in a contrasting palette of colours — her almost regal gown of crimson velvet gives way to a simple blue dress for her night out. Truth be told, this misfired somewhat — my first thought was of Tosca disguising herself as Micaela from Carmen! - but the point became clear in Act 3 when everything, including Magda, was in white. It is made very clear that until Ruggero inadvertently rocks the boat by proposing marriage, this is where Magda finds a sense of comfort and belonging.

As Magda (the ‘swallow’ of the title), the Australian soprano Kate Ladner was glamorous, feminine and self-assured — she would have been a head-turner even without the stand-out costumes. Her poised and voluptuous soprano was perfect for ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’, the small-talk of Act 1 and the intimate duet scenes. She was well-matched by Seán Ruane as Ruggero, convincingly youthful and with a refreshing tenderness to his tone. The one thing both initially lacked was abandon — both Magda’s outburst of longing for romantic adventure at the end of her second aria and the lovers’ cries of ‘Dolcezza! Ebrezza! Incanto! Sogno!’ in the middle of the Act 2 waltz sounded far too safe. Happily, they found the extra reserve of expansive lyricism in time for the impassioned heart-searching of Act 3.

Hal Cazalet’s light tenor was ideal for Prunier the poet; as the salon raconteur of Act 1 his gift for natural and conversational delivery of sung dialogue really came into its own. He and Hye Youn Lee’s good-natured, vivacious Lisette made a natural and likeable couple.

The group scenes really felt relaxed and natural thanks to the detailed direction of an array of contrasting and credible characters, and a classy ensemble comprised mainly of OHP regulars. Stephanie Bodsworth, Sarah Minns and Olivia Ray were as lively, sparkling and characterful as the three grisettes in Act 2 as they had been as Magda’s guests in Act 1. Nicholas Todorovic (Kate Ladner’s real-life husband) was a gruff, proud Rambaldo, and there was a very impressive turn from the young soprano Anna Patalong as the unnamed voice whose mysterious solo at the end of Act 2 warns of the fickleness of love. The OHP chorus, too, were on fine form.

In the pit, Peter Selwyn and the City of London Sinfonia succeeded in capturing the delicate colours of the score — Viennese melodic sentiment couched in a rich, Italianate and recognisably Puccinian idiom. At times I felt Selwyn could have been a little more attentive to the singers (at one point in Magda’s second aria, Ladner had to make an adjustment for having been left behind by the accompaniment) but it was a pleasure to listen to, always well-balanced.

For rarity value, go and see La Wally later this month. For high drama, catch Rigoletto. But for melody, elegance, lovely singing and fine ensemble work, this Rondine has all that Holland Park is best at, and all I could have asked of it.

Ruth Elleson © 2011

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):