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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La Rondine - Lyric comedy in three acts (1917)
Magda … Fiorenza Cedolins
Ruggero … Fernando Portari
Lisette … Sandra Pastrana
Prunier … Emanuele Giannino
Rambaldo … Stefano Antonucci
Périchaud … George Mosely
Gobin … Iorio Zennaro
Crébillon … Giuseppe Nicodemo
A majordomo … Andrea Zaupa
Yvette … Sabrina Vianello
Bianca … Giacinta Nicotra
Suzy … Annika Kaschenz
Acrobatic Swing Dance, Venezia
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro La Fenice/Carlo Rizzi
Directed by Graham Vick
rec. live, Teatro La Fenice, Venice, 2008


Experience Classicsonline

“ … Perhaps like a swallow,
you will migrate towards the sea,
towards a bright land of dreams …


"Child, love is in bloom!
Take care, take care of your heart!
Kisses and laughter must be paid for with teardrops!


"I am the dawn, which is born only to dispel any magic of the moonlit night! Do not trust in love!"


I will readily confess at the outset that I have always had a great affection for La Rondine. Alas this engaging opera has never really advanced beyond the fringes of the Puccini repertoire. Yet it contains some of the composer’s most sparkling, romantic melodies; Act II is consistently delightful.


[At this point I would like to refer readers to my comparative review of three audio recordings of La Rondine in an extended file which also contains an essay on the evolvement of the opera and a detailed synopsis of its plot].


I was, therefore, looking forward to seeing this La Fenice production with eager anticipation. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first DVD presentation of Puccini’s unjustly neglected work.


I have to say I was disappointed. The main trouble, to my mind, is the unsympathetic updating of the action from the Paris of Louis Napoleon III, circa 1855-60, to the City of Lights in the more garish 1950s. The atmosphere of the opening act is less troubled by this updating. The flouncy 1950s costumes with their romantic full skirts certainly appeal but why is Fiorenza Cedolins, as the heroine Magda, dressed so unflatteringly in what was presumably intended to be a sophisticated black dress. Sadly it only succeeds in making her look frumpy. This clumsiness is compounded by her indelicate stage movements particularly as she sings the famous 'Chi il bel sogno di Doretta' - used so tellingly in the film of E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View. This robs this beautiful aria of much of its charm and sincerity. However it is the nightmarish vision of Bulliers nightclub - the setting for Act II - which really disturbs. Surely Puccini envisaged the 19th century elegance and romance of Bullier’s chandelier-lit ballroom leading out onto lantern-lit, perfumed gardens. Instead we have a crass mid-20th century realization: huge neon figures of half naked dancing girls and an on-stage VW van dispensing food and drink. To add to the incongruity the stage is invaded by Vespas and Lambrettas and men and women looking, for the most part, too old to pass as students.


The plot is simple. Magda is an ageing courtesan who dreams of one last romantic liaison. She meets and falls in love, at Bulliers, with the young innocent Ruggero. Throwing caution to the wind she runs away with him to an uncertain and probably impecunious future. When he wants to settle down to married life and produces a letter from his mother saying she is eager to meet his virtuous girl, Magda panics and, after confessing her past, leaves the heart-broken Ruggero to return to her old life in Paris.


Cedolins’ dramatic performance improves in Act II helped by a much more flattering costume and hairstyle; she is also in more confident voice. Her love duets with Fernando Portari as Ruggero, to some of Puccini’s most delicate and magically romantic music are beautifully expressed and controlled. Portari is a romantic if rather portly Ruggero. His Act III aria Ma come puoi lasciarmi' (But how can you leave me) as Magda breaks from him is most affecting. The second leads shine. Emanuele Giannino’s Prunier, the urbane lounge lizard who prompts Magda’s romantic dreaming at the beginning of the opera, conveys just the right mix of wry irony, pomposity and tenderness. Sandra Pastrani is a nicely coquettish Lisette, Magda’s scheming maid and the object of Prunier’s affections. She is an appealing lyric soprano.


The coolness of the audience applause at the end of this production says it all. Until a more sympathetic production of this lovely work turns up on DVD it is much better to invest in the EMI recording with Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna (5563382). It certainly appealed to the critics back in 1997.

Ian Lace


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