The Stage, 17 November 2004
by George Hall
Puccini: La Rondine, ROH, London November 2004
La rondine
Two years ago the Royal Opera had a tremendous success with its first ever staging of Puccini’s rarity The Swallow - to translate its title into English - and they have another strong evening here with its first revival.

This neglected score, dating from late in the composer’s career (1917), contains some wonderful music but the overall mood is nostalgic, even world-weary as compared to Boheme or Tosca. Updated here from Second Empire Paris to the early twentieth century, Nicolas Joel’s lavish production provides glamorous stage pictures and explores the milieu of kept-woman Magda with unerring skill.

This is a great role for Angela Gheorghiu, whose physical beauty, clever acting and superb soprano - ideal for Puccini - all find here a matchless setting. Newcomer Jonas Kaufmann, a stylish and handsome young German tenor, gives a performance as her naïve provincial lover Ruggero that complements Gheorghiu faultlessly.

Kurt Streit leads the second couple as Prunier, cynical poet and light-hearted lover to Magda’s maid Lisette, the latter a little tart of tone in the hands of Annamaria dell’Oste and a touch overdrawn dramatically. But Robert Lloyd is secure and quietly watchful as Magda’s older, wealthy protector Rambaldo and Eirian James delivers a superb cameo as Suzy, one of Magda’s good-time gal friends.

Emmanuel Villaume conducts, not quite with the passion and identification Gianluigi Gelmetti brought to the score last time round but efficiently. It all adds up to an evocative evening of operatic romance.

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