Sunday, May 26

La rondine – The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD

Initially commissioned to be a Viennese operetta before receiving the full operatic treatment, Puccini’s bittersweet love story is one of his lesser-known works: as a result of Austria and Italy being on opposing sides in World War I, it opened quietly in Monte Carlo in 1917 and never established a permanent place in the repertoire. Too easily dismissed in comparison to other works, when judged on its own merits it is a fascinating work featuring an abundance of exuberant waltzes, an intoxicating lightness of tone, and a romantic vision of Paris and the French Riviera as its three acts take us on a journey of love in Nicolas Joël’s 1920’s Art Deco-themed production.

Opening to the backdrop of Ezio Frigerio’s rich and sumptuous set, matched by Franca Squarciapino’s costumes and elegantly lit by Duane Schuler, we meet Magda (Angel Blue), the mistress of a wealthy banker, Rambaldo (Alfred Walker), but when the poet Prunier (Bekhzod Davronov) reads her palm and predicts that la rondine – the swallow – she will travel south in her pursuit of happiness, the die is cast for what is to follow. When she meets the young Ruggero (Jonathan Tetelman), glamour soon turns to decadence as she follows him to the nightclub Bulliers where they fall in love and decide to run away to the south of France, and with Prunier equally smitten with Magda’s maid, Lisette (Emily Pogorelc), the two couples find themselves heading in a similar direction too.

Delightfully sung in Italian and with English surtitles, could we be looking at love’s young dreams? Could we be due a happy ending? Well, it is Puccini so…

With three of the main cast making their Met debuts and Peter Gelb, General Manager at the Met, informing us before the start that one of them was also suffering from allergies, one could be forgiven for imagining the worst. Thankfully such fears did not come home to roost as we were served up one of the most delightful, engaging, and moving productions that I have had the pleasure of experiencing in a long time.

Whils she has a powerful instrument, Blue can often be too static, but her performance tonight expressed beautifully the inner torment of a courtesan cossetted by a life of excess who deep down just wants to love and be loved. Tetelman, who by his own admission is on a journey to discover his own voice, certainly captured the idealistic young man offering her that very alternative in an impassioned performance that hints at a bright future. Davronov and Pogorelc combined superbly offering an alternate parallel story that demonstrated powerful vocal and acting skills that hinted at equally bright futures, whilst the ever-steadfast Walker was suitably severe.

Maestro Speranza Scappucci led the orchestra brightly from the off with harmonies that hinted at both Impressionist and Expressionist influences whilst cradling a strong sense of dance from the early Viennese waltz influences in Act I through to more delicate and sensitive arrangements that conveyed an underlying transparency which hinted at the fragility of the relationships on stage. Individual arias and duets were impressively sung throughout with Act II’s quartet theme absolutely outstanding as it benefited from the obvious chemistry and warmth of the four soloists, complemented by a wonderful performance from the chorus augmented further by some fantastic choreography. There was nothing not to enjoy, the only shame with this being the last performance IS that I cannot see it again: roll on the next revival.

Reviewer; Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 20th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.