The Independent
Puccini: La Rondine, ROH, London November 2004
The production (directed by Nicolas Joël) tries a little too hard to look fabulous. Ezio Frigerio`s Klimt-obsessed sets are awash with mosaic, gold-leaf, and - in the Riviera hotel of the final act - a riot of turquoise and emerald stained glass. The applause that greets it says a lot about the audience`s dubious taste, though it has to be said that its wow factor is certainly in keeping with the dazzle and glitter of Puccini`s score. But the real substance of the opera is in the heartfelt third and final act, and it was here that the absence of Gheorghiu`s "other half", might well have prompted a fresher response from her. For the young German tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, it was quite a debut. The voice is more swarthy and darker grained than that of the Italianate Alagna, and so are the boyish looks. But Kaufmann is a graceful singer weaned on graceful Mozart, and while he can muster a ringing flamboyance for the "money notes", it is the subtlety of his response that draws us in. When he sings of the baby that he hopes that he and Magda might have together one day, the tenderness of his finely attenuated pianissimo singing beautifully reflects the image of the child reaching for the elusive sunlight.

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