Webmaster: Len Mullenger
Seen and Heard Opera Review
PUCCINI: La Rondine, Opera in three acts.Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 3.12 2005 (RJF)
their December production twelve months ago
Groom sang the lead role of Magda. Her lyric soprano,
with its quick fluttery vibrato, would have been better
heard in a lighter fach. I note she is carded as Adina
in L’Elisir d’Amore for Diva Opera in 2006. Donizetti will be far
kinder to her voice and development and will enable
her to match her vocal characterization to
her undoubted acting ability. The same comments could
be made about Simon Crosby Buttle’s
Ruggero. He was a convincing
gauche student in Act I and more confident and sophisticated
in Act III. His tenor is true and he sings with good
diction, but far too often he pushed his voice too
far to the expense of colour
in particular. Tito Schipa created the role, a singer
renowned for honeyed tone as well as vocal strength.
Just once, in Act III as he contemplated his children
together with Magda did
Buttle take advantage of
a quiet orchestral passage: he phrased with gentility
and let a mezza voce escape.
Stefan Janski’s direction of the young cast was exceptional even by his renowned standards. Not only did the principal singers react to each other and move with grace, but the large numbers on stage during Act II in Bullier’s night club acted, sang and danced as if they knew exactly what they were about; something that professional choristers often fail to convey. The basic set of a curved, patterned back and a similarly marked front gauze allowed quick and easy passage between acts. The lighting effects, felicitous throughout, were particularly noteworthy at the start of Act III when Magda admires the sea setting of their residence. It was magical in the best sense.
As I have implied
already, Mark Shanahan conducted this late Puccini
work with rather too much vigour for his young singers.
La Rondine may
have been conceived as operetta it actually ended
up as something more. Shanahan didn’t shirk from the
reminders from La Boheme but he played La
Rondine rather as if verismo were the name of the game.
It isn't: Puccini’s publisher Ricordi, refused to
publish the work, deriding it as second rate Lehar
and as it happens, Lehar's most famous work might
better have suited the singers here, and would also
have met the requirement to give experience to the
maximum numbers as soloists or choristers. Since the
opera profession is highly competitive and show case
opportunities are few, the list of RNCM alumni indicates
that the college can and does train to the highest
standards. But singers too need self-discipline so
that they convey an appropriate figure du
part for the roles that come their way. It struck
me that in some instances (not all, I hasten to add)
Jamie Oliver's help in the college refectory might
enhance careers considerably.