Notes & Reviews:
Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna star in the 2008 - 2009 Metropolitan Opera production of Puccini's 'La Rondine' (The Swallow). This new production, directed by Nicholas Joel, was the opera house's first staging of the work in 70 years. The New York Times hailed the Art-Deco set production of this performance as "as sophisticated, charming and poignant". This DVD features the January 10, 2009 performance of the opera, which was aired globally in HD, as well as two bonus interview featurettes: the first with Gheorghiu and Alagna, and the second with Lisette Oropesa and Marius Brenciu, who sing the roles Lisette and Prunier respectively.
"Who ever would have guessed that Puccini's 1917 La rondine, his stepchild, would be available in five different video performances? It will take a lot to convince me that it is worthy of its betters--the combination of sentimentality, verismo, and operetta does not click with me; but for those who think that Traviata and Fledermaus would be happy together if they met on an online dating service, I guess it's a treat.
You can't deny that it has its charms--Magda's justly famous "Sogno di Doretta" and the second-act quartet are gorgeous moments; but the mood is emotionally untrustworthy. Puccini said it should be a "reaction to the repulsive music of today, to world war music", but that's not the definition of a successful stage work.
However, if it's your cup of tea this Met performance from January, 2009 is the best choice. The one on Arthaus, from Venice, in Graham Vick's over-directed but good-looking production, is led by Carlo Rizzi as if it were by Léhar, has a mediocre Magda in Fiorenza Cedolins, and otherwise is undistinguished; the Washington Opera's version is stunning and features a gorgeous Magda in Aïnhoa Arteta, but Marta Domingo's direction actually has her committing suicide at the end, which is both stupid and un-Puccinian--if he had wanted his heroine dead he would have killed her as he does almost all the others.
Nicholas Joël's production (which has been seen in Toulouse, San Francisco, and Covent Garden) has updated the action to the 1920s without harming the action or sensibility of the work, and Ezio Frigerio's absolutely stunning, art-nouveau sets and Franca Squarciapino's flapper-era costumes are equally handsome and picturesque. The ladies smoke up a storm, cigarette holders and all. If anything is wanted, it would be a bit more simplicity--it's all a bit too grand for such an intimate tale. Stephen Barlow's staging is expert in the first and last acts: the carefree life-style of the Parisian well-off and the wonderful familiarity of the loving but doomed couple comes across as nice and natural. But the second act, at a local dance hall, borders dangerously on the tacky. The first-act interaction among the four women is particularly delightful.
Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna are the leads--she is every inch the diva all the time. Watching her closely you see little spontaneity, but she looks great (despite a bad wig) and sounds ravishing. If her "Sogno" misses the pianissimos of the best, it has everything else, and the voice is lustrous throughout. Alagna is at his most ardent and sweet, if mostly loud, but he leaves the competition in the dust. Boyish and eager, he never fails to charm, and he appears to "live" the text. Again, close-ups give away the fact that they are not teenagers, but we've seen much worse.
The comic-relief couple--the cynical poet Prunier and the maid Lisette--are also the strongest on DVD. Romanian tenor Marius Brenciu and soprano Lisette Oropesa seem to relish their roles and act and sing with great self-assurance. As Magda's older, rich sugar-daddy, Samuel Ramey displays a dreadful wobble but carries himself with great dignity.
Marco Armiliato leads a reading that precisely catches the bittersweet quality of the score without falling into sentimentality; indeed he almost sells it as something other than "the day off of a genius". The love scenes are tender and the ensembles full of life.
As a "bonus" Renée Fleming interviews the four principals, two at a time, for about four minutes each. A particularly nice moment occurs when she comments on how charming it is that a real-life couple is singing together on the stage. Alagna comes across as a very nice, happy man."-classicstoday.com
BBC Music Magazine, December 2010 *****
Armiliato's conducting...captures the right warmth, and the former Dream Team still look superb...The lyrical young Ruggero still suits Alagna...Ramey's now leathery tone embodies Ramblado's elderly urbanity, and the Met's lesser roles are typically strong. Overall, then, this is [a] fine performance that undoubtedly confirms Rondine's renewed status.
Gramophone Magazine, December 2010
...at the centre is Angela Gheorghiu in richest, creamiest voice. At her side for most of the time is Roberto Alagna, singing with tone that is resonant if not refulgent...Marco Armiliato conducts with enthusiasm, and the glimpses of scenery-changing reveal a hinter-realm of awesome complexity under unfazed control.
International Record Review, December 2010
Jodl's production...has updated the opera to the 1920s without harming the action or sensibility of the work... Armiliato leads a reading that precisely catches the bittersweet quality of the score without falling into sentimentality; indeed he almost sells it as something other than 'the day off of a genius'.
Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
...the Metropolitan Opera sets are wonderfully elegant... Consistently, Gheorghiu makes you share the courtesan's wild dream of finding her young ardent lover... Alagna winningly characterizes in his freshest voice.
Submitted on 11/19/10 by JAMES R. OESTREICH, The New York Times
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Works DetailsPuccini, Giacomo : La Rondine
- Performers: Roberto Alagna (Tenor); Roberto Alagna (Tenor); Marius Brenciu (Tenor); Marius Brenciu (Tenor); Angela Gheorghiu (Soprano); Angela Gheorghiu (Soprano); Lisette Oropesa (Soprano); Lisette Oropesa (Soprano)
- Conductor: Marco Armiliato
- Ensemble: Metropolitan Opera Chorus
- Period Time: Post Romantic
- Form: Opera/Operetta
- Written: 1917