The Metropolitan Opera – La Rondine

La Rondine – Opera in three acts to a libretto by Giuseppe Adami after A. M. Willner & Heinz Reichert [sung in Italian with English surtitles]

Yvette – Monica Yunus
Bianca – Alyson Cambridge
Prunier – Marius Brenciu
Magda – Angela Gheorghiu
Lisette – Lisette Oropesa
Suzy – Elizabeth DeShong
Rambaldo – James Courtney
Gobin – Tony Stevenson
Périchaud – David Won
Crébillon – David Crawford
Ruggero – Roberto Alagna
Adolf – Marty Singleton
Georgette – Anne Nonnemacher
Gabriele – Belinda Oswald
Lolette – Mary Hughes
A Singer – Ashley Emerson
Rabonnier – Jason Hendrix
A Butler – Roger Andrews

The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

The Orchestra of Metropolitan Opera [Steven Eldredge (piano)]
Marco Armiliato

Nicolas Joël – Production
Stephen Barlow – Staging
Ezio Frigerio – Set Designer
Franca Squarciapino – Costume Designer
Duane Schuler – Lighting Designer

Reviewed by: Victor Wheeler

Reviewed: 3 January, 2009
Venue: The Metropolitan Opera, New York City

Roberto Alagna as Ruggero and Angela Gheorghiu as Magda. Photograph: Ken Howard/Metropolitan OperaAfter a hiatus of 72 years, “La Rondine” has returned to the Met, this time set not during the Second Empire (mid-nineteenth-century) as Puccini envisioned it but in the Paris and Riviera of the 1920s. Unfortunately, large columns in Acts One and Two so dominated the art deco sets that Magda’s luxurious Paris salon in Act One and the Parisian dance-hall in Act Two recalled “Aida” more than anything else. I found them obtrusive and annoying. Otherwise, the rest of the production worked well.

The fiery magnetism that Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna exude when they are together was evident throughout such as in their last anguished duet in Act Three, ‘Ma come puoi lasciarmi’ (How can you leave me). Ruggero, naive in the ways of love, receives in a letter his mama’s acquiescence to her son’s desire to marry Magda, a “virtuous” woman. Ruggero’s pain when Magda declines his offer of marriage and Magda’s feelings of despair at having to do so were electric. Even when Gheorghiu (Magda) sang solo, she lit up the stage, as in the Act One ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta potè indovinar’ (Who can guess Doretta’s dream) – the opera’s most famous aria. Alagna’s vibrant voice soared all evening.

sette Oropesa as Lisette, Monica Yunus as Yvette, Alyson Cambridge as Bianca, Roberto Alagna as Ruggero, Elizabeth DeShong as Suzy. Photograph: Ken Howard/Metropolitan OperaMarius Brenciu’s sweet tenor and Lisette Oropesa’s light soprano were perfect for their characters’ comic elements. In the slow concertato ‘Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso’ (I drink to your inebriating smile) – a truly colorful tune – Gheorghiu, Alagna, Brenciu, and Oropesa sang with just the right amount of intensity to make evident what the two couples were feeling toward their respective partners. James Courtney (Rambaldo) – replacing an indisposed Samuel Ramey – did not have to sing often, but when he did it was with verve and clarity. The other singers and the chorus handled their parts masterfully.

Steven Eldredge (piano soloist in Act One for the aria about Doretta) played beautifully and artfully. Whether the singing was energetic or sublime, Marco Armiliato’s conducting was always evenly-paced; there was never a tug-of-war between the singers and the conductor. In turn, the orchestra performed magnificently, both in tutti and in solos: the violin tremolos in Act Three that introduce Magda’s feelings at fully realizing that she would never marry Ruggero – she would once again become Rambaldo’s mistress, thus having to break Ruggero’s heart – were thoroughly convincing, while a wonderfully played bassoon obbligato near the end of Act Two was followed by a lovely bass clarinet flourish. In short, Puccini’s intention to bring forth the world of grisettes and demimondes and of love lost and naive in “La Rondine” found voice in this performance.

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