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CD: Crotchet

Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La Rondine - a commedia lirica in three acts (1917)
Magda - Svetla Vassileva (soprano)
Ruggero - Fabio Sartori (tenor)
Lisette - Maya Dashuk (soprano)
Prunier - Emanuele Giannino (tenor)
Rambaldo - Marzio Giossi (baritone)
Périchaud – Fernando Ciuffo
Gobin – Giorgio Berrugi
Crébillon – Andrea Patucelli
Yvette – Polina Volfson
Bianca – Alessandra Meozzi
Suzy – Annunziata Vestri
Fleury – Katia De Sarlo
Mariette – Chang Chiung Wen
Roro – Elisabetta Lombardo
Un maggiordomo – Alessando Manghesi
Orchestra and Chorus of the Puccini Festival/Alberto Veronesi
rec. live, 53rd Puccini Festival, Torre del Lago, Italy, 8, 10, 16 August 2007.
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: Dolby Digital 2.0 / Dolby Surround 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, Italian
NAXOS 2.110266 [110:54]
Experience Classicsonline

I sometimes think that so many producers of modern settings of operas should be quietly taken out and put out of their - and our - misery. I am thinking, for instance, of this year’s Met production of Bellini’s La Sonnambula, worse the La Fenice production of La Rondine - and worse still the 2001 production by Opéra National du Rhin, of Korngold’s Die tote Stadt. This DVD release of La Rondine plumbs new depths.
On the face of it this should have been quite interesting. Though first performed in 1917 this is a 2006 edition including some special orchestrations of the third 1921 version by Lorenzo Ferrero. It offers a fresh look at Act III in which Ruggero, on learning of Magda’s seamy earlier life as a courtesan in Paris, drops her like a brick. Its squalid ‘realism’ might have appealed to the liberated in the audience. It even goes so far as to have Lisette pregnant and delivered of her baby (presumably by Prunier) by Act III. In other words any suggestion of delicacy and romance has been brutally leached from this sorry production.
It’s also visually quite repellent. The costumes are often hideous: Magda’s three friends seen in Act I look like Cinderella’s three ugly sisters. The dancers at Bulliers in Act II look particularly revolting. The lighting is poor and often the characters are left in gloom. The sets are just short of minimalistic with back-projection of some very odd images: a huge Amaryllis Lily-look-alike peers down on the celebrants at Bulliers. An extraordinary distorted and enigmatic image presides over the doomed lovers in Act III.
Worse, my jaw dropped in disbelief when two semi-clothed - and that is my kindest description of their attire - dancers pranced gracelessly during the most intimate and beautiful numbers. They are present, for example, during Magda’s ‘Chi il belo sogno di Doretta’ and the lovely Act II romantic duets.
Svetla Vassileva makes a sympathetic Magda. She is a bit unsteady in her opening aria  but her delivery is sweetened and her high register pianissimos are quite exquisite. Her discomfiture is understandable considering the buffoonery proceeding behind her as described in my preceding paragraph. Fabio Sartori is no Alagna or Villazon in the looks department but he has a most appealing tenor timbre. Maya Dashuk’s Lisette is nicely coquettish but vocally unimpressive. Giannino’s Prunier and Giossi’s Rambaldo contribute gamely. Even so, the luke-warm applause at the end says it all.
Avoid. Frankly, if I had been in the audience I would not only have demanded my money back but wanted to be paid for sitting through this dim production. I recommend you wait for the Met’s gorgeous 2009 production of La Rondine, transmitted live to audiences around the world. It’s probably going to appear on DVD.
Ian Lace

see also the feature review of La Rondine (The Swallow)


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