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 Performances

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Angela Gheorghiu as Magda [Photo © ROH / Catherine Ashmore]
07 Jul 2013

La Rondine, Royal Opera House

La Rondine isn’t Puccini’s finest moment. As drama it’s a retread of La Bohème. The music resembles out-takes from Madama Butterfly. What holds it together is Magda.

Giacomo Puccini : La Rondine

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Angela Gheorghiu as Magda [Photo © ROH / Catherine Ashmore]

 

So when an artist like Angela Gheorghiu revives the role, she brings a much-needed extra dimension to the opera. This is the role that helped propel her to stardom together with Roberto Alagna. Now they’re having a bitter divorce, fanned by media sensationalism.

Art imitates life. Ironically, that human background adds poignancy to what is essentially, a fluffy vacuum of an opera, despite its surface charm. Magda sings of her first love, and the kiss that sealed their passion. When she sang this with Alagna the extra-musical frisson must have been intense.It must take incredible courage to revisit this role now, when every note tears open old wounds. For that alone, Gheorghiu deserves respect. So what if her voice isn’t at its resplendent peak? She creates a far more accurate Magda because she accesses the underlying pain that animates the character. Gheorghiu shows that there is more to Magda than her fawning, false friends realize. Pretty and superficial might apply to them. But not to her. When Gheorghiu sings the long sequence beginning with “Ore dolci et divine” the strain isn’t vocal, but emotional. She breaks off the last lines a little abruptly, rather than letting them linger. But that’s far truer to Magda’s true personality.

Artists are not gladiators in an arena. They exist for their art, not for the mob. Some singers attract nastiness that goes far beyond artistic criticism, and descends into vicious personal abuse. It’s bullying, and usually the abuse of women, worse than anything Alagna may or may not have done. If opera is based on human feelings, sensitivity is essential. If we care about opera as art, we should respect the human beings who sing and create it. Gheorghiu is in a difficult position at the moment, so it’s all the more to her credit that she went on at all.

Having braved the personal demons Act One would have awakened in her, Gheorghiu settled into the role ever more comfortably as the opera continued. In the Second act, she felt genuinely fresh, and by the end, she was almost radiant. Her Ruggero, Charles Castelnovo, supported her well. If his voice isn’t quite as lovely as many who have done the part before, he compensated by being a solid foil to the lead. Perhaps the all-important kiss worked its magic, for Gheorghiu’s Magda blossomed again, like the roses in the song. Castelnovo seems genuinely nice, so Magda’s eventual renunciation seems quite natural. Magda has come to terms with her past and doesn’t need illusions of youth and love. Gheorghiu seems to find strength in Magda’s maturity. For once the ending convinces, even though it’s not written with the depth Puccini might have given to his other heroines.

Sabina Puertolas sing Lisette, Magda’s maid. The rapport between Gheorghiu and Puertolas seems genuinely affectionate: they bounce off one another merrily, singing with palpable warmth. The dynamic lifts the opera , defusing the mood. Some of the wittiest musical passages illustrate Prunier’s attempt to turn Lisette into what she can never be. Edgaras Montvidas sang a very good Prunier. He made us hear the “Poet” who thinks in terms of dreams, not reality, casually changing names and identities. Ultimately, La Rondine is a warm-hearted, humane opera where pretensions are overturned. Lisette goes back to being a maid, and Magda (presumably) goes back to being Rambaldo’s good friend. Good nature prevails over delusion.

Marco Armiliato conducted. The production is the Nicholas Joël perennial, as flashy as the life Magda and her friends seem to live. It’s telling that when Magda and Ruggero share their brief happiness that the backdrop shows fake flowers. The real beauty in La Rondine lies in the portrayal of Magda as a human personality. As such, Angela Georghiu is truly vindicated.

Anne Ozorio


Cast and production information:

Magda de Civry: Angela Gheorghiu; Lisette: Sabina Puértolas; Ruggero Lastouc: Charles Castronovo; Prunier Edgaras Montvidas; Rambaldo Fernandez: Pietro Spagnoli; Périchaud: John Cunningham; Gobin: Pablo Bemsch; Crébillon: Ashley Riches; Yvette/Soprano Solo: Dušica Bijelic; Bianca: Hanna Hipp; Suzy: Justina Gringyte; Conductor: Marco Armiliato; Director: Nicolas Joël; Set designs: Ezio Frigerio; Costume designs: Franca Squarciapino; Lighting design: Vinicio Cheli. Royal Opera House; London; 5th July 2013.

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):