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Puccini: La Rondine / Alieva, Brignoli [Blu-ray]

Release Date: 06/10/2016 
Label:  Delos   Catalog #: 7011  
Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Charles CastronovoAlvaro ZambranoAlexandra HuttonDinara Alieva
Conductor:  Roberto Rizzi Brignoli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper ChorusBerlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Blu-ray Video:  $24.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

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Also available on standard DVD

La Rondine (The Swallow) is possibly the least performed of Giacomo Puccini’s later operas, but is still just as much a masterwork as its more performed counterparts. Originally conceived as the composer’s first operetta, the work is an artful blend of opera and operetta, with a lighter mood than Puccini’s other works. This live production filmed at the Deutsche Oper Berlin stars Dinara Alieva and Charles Castronovo in the lead roles.
Read more Renowned stage director Rolando Villazon sets this rendition, and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin is conducted here by acclaimed Maestro Roberto Rizzi Brignoli.

Subtitles: English, French, German
Audio Format: PCM Stereo, DTS - HD Master Audio 5.0
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Works on This Recording

La Rondine by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Charles Castronovo (Tenor), Alvaro Zambrano (Tenor), Alexandra Hutton (Soprano),
Dinara Alieva (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roberto Rizzi Brignoli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus,  Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1917; Italy 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Passionately Recommended June 15, 2016 By Joel Flegler (Tenafly, NJ) See All My Reviews "Fanfare Magazine, James A. Altena Puccini’s La rondine, his hybrid of plot elements of Verdi’s La traviata, Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus, and Giordano’s Fedora with the bittersweet conclusions of Lehár’s later operettas, remains far and away his least often performed mature opera. This is unfortunate indeed, for its music is as beautiful and inspired as that in any of its sister scores. Despite a warm reception upon its premiere in Monte Carlo in 1917 (with Gilda Dalla Rizza and Tito Schipa as Magda and Ruggero!), Puccini’s usual publisher Tito Ricordi rejected the work as “bad Lehár,” and the composer turned to Lorenzo Sanzogno for publication instead. Dissatisfied with the work’s original ending, Puccini wrote revised versions in 1920 and 1921, and even considered a fourth version, but died in 1924 before making a final choice between them. The second version was first staged in Palermo in 1920. The third version was not presented in Puccini’s lifetime, and then an Allied bombing raid in World War II destroyed parts of the original orchestral score kept at Sanzogno’s publishing house. Eventually, composer Lorenzo Ferrero created a new completion based on surviving piano-vocal parts, which was premiered in Turin in 1994. In case anyone reading this is not familiar with the plot, it runs as follows. In Paris, Magda is the mistress of the wealthy Rambaldo; Lizette, her maid, is loved by the poet Prunier. Rambaldo is visited by Ruggero, the son of a friend of his. Ruggero wants to experience a night out on the town in Paris, and Bullier’s nightclub is suggested. Ruggero leaves, followed later by Lizette and Prunier. Alone, Magda has a sudden inspiration; she disguises herself and also leaves for Bullier’s. There, she encounters Ruggero; the two discover that they are soulmates and fall in love. Lizette and Prunier arrive; Lizette is astonished to see her mistress there, but Prunier cleverly convinces her that she is mistaken and it must be someone else. Rambaldo also arrives; he confronts Magda and demands that she return home with him. Magda tells him she is in love and will not return, and the angry Rambaldo leaves. Magda and Ruggero move to a hideaway on the French Riviera; Magda frets about the mounting expenses and fears that Ruggero will discover her shameful past. Ruggero reveals that he has written to his father to ask permission to marry Magda. While he leaves to check the post for a reply, Lizette and Prunier arrive, having hunted down the pair of lovers. Magda agrees to take Lizette as her maid again; Prunier whispers to Magda that Rambaldo is willing to forgive her, take her back, and pay off her debts. Lizette and Prunier depart. Ruggero enters with a letter from his mother for Magda to read; it says that she welcomes Ruggero’s beloved if she is a pure and worthy girl. At this point the three endings diverge. In the original first and most commonly presented version, and the one adopted in this performance, Magda tells an unbelieving Ruggero that she has a shameful past which will not allow her to be the pure wife that his mother wants for him, and she leaves him to return to Rambaldo. In the second revised version of 1920, Magda decides on her own to leave Ruggero after her conversation with the poet Prunier and there is no final parting scene. In the third version, Ruggero receives an anonymous telegram revealing Magda’s past and it is he who decides to leave her. (In some productions, à la Joan Crawford in Humoresque, Madga then commits suicide by walking into the ocean.) This production from the Deutsche Oper in Berlin (where I saw several operas while resident in the city from 1989–90) has a less than ideal staging concept that is more than redeemed by magnificent singing. It seems that nowadays German stage productions have only two modi operandi, both highly objectionable: Regietheater and “concept” productions. Here we have a relatively mild instance of the latter, perhaps because the stage director is not a German, but is instead a figure of note for other accomplishments in the operatic sphere: Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón! The action is set at the time of the opera’s composition; well and good, though a few of the costumes among the extras are a bit gauche. Most aspects of the sets and furnishings are traditional; however, the backdrop to act I is a distractingly huge and very poorly rendered reproduction of the reclining female nude Venus of Urbino by Titian, and in act III the outdoor backdrop has a cutout of that figure, which Magda walks into at the opera’s end. The other gimmick is the constant presence of a trio of male figures clad in white to look like plastic clothing store display mannequins, complete with featureless hemispherical masks over their faces. The three poor souls employed in these roles are required to hold often awkward motionless poses for 20 minutes or so at a stretch, and then given a bit of action; for example, in act I they hold an empty picture frame, and then at the act’s end maneuver it around to frame Magda’s face as she prepares to depart to Bullier’s. Your guess is as good as mine regarding their intended function. At the opera’s end, Magda takes one of the hemispherical face masks and puts it over Ruggero’s face as she sings “This is my pain”; I therefore presume that they somehow are supposed to symbolize her hidden shameful past and a blank face she must present to respectable society. Thankfully, since the three figures spend so much of their time being motionless, one can largely ignore them. But, the singing! My heavens, I thought such unabashed, full-throttle verismo emotionalism had died with the 1950s! Dinara Alieva has a wonderfully opulent soprano, a true spinto with seemingly limitless power and an absolutely free top; she could tackle any Verdi or Puccini role that comes to mind, except Turandot and perhaps Lady Macbeth. But she knows how to rein it in for emotional expression, and she fully captures Magda’s emotional vulnerability. Although Charles Castronovo (husband of soprano Ekaterina Siurina) has sung at the Met (1999–2001 and again in 2012), somehow he has escaped my attention heretofore—but he certainly won’t any longer. His is an absolutely thrilling voice that brings back memories of Franco Corelli in its deeply burnished baritonal timbre and ringing top, coupled to fluent legato phrasing and ardent expressiveness. This voice is ready for Manrico and Radamés, and possibly even Otello. Both he and Alieva have excellent diction, secure intonation, and rock-steady diaphragm support. It’s possible that some critics will object that Magda and Ruggero should be portrayed by lighter, more lyrical voices, in a lower-key more intimate manner. I can only respond that this couple is stupendous; I’ve not heard vocalism this thrillingly beautiful in years, and I literally had shivers of delight rippling up and down my spine as they poured out gleaming, golden tones. The second supporting duo of lovers, Lizette and Prunier, are portrayed with equal excellence by Alexandra Hutton and Alvaro Zambrano, with their much lighter but attractive, well produced and characterful voices perfectly limning the gaiety of their characters. The comprimario roles and the chorus also sing superbly; only Stephen Bronk slightly disappoints as a rather dry-voiced Rambaldo, but his part is small and the character is unattractive anyway. Along with Alieva and Castronovo, an equal share of the success here is due to conductor Roberto Rizzi Brignoli. Under his baton this German orchestra plays with the sweeping fervor of every Italian ensemble to the manor born; the tidal waves of emotion pouring out of the speakers bid fair to float one right out the door, with a particularly stupendous climax to the nightclub scene in act II. The Blu-ray format delivers its usual sharp focus for picture quality, and the recorded sound packs a wallop. Subtitles come in English, French, and German; there are no extras. On CD, there have been three commendable recordings made: the 1966 RCA set with Anna Moffo, Daniele Barioni, and Francesco Molinari-Pradelli; the 1981 CBS/Sony/BMG version with Kiri Te Kanawa, Plácido Domingo, and Lorin Maazel; and the 1997 EMI release with Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, and Antonio Pappano. I concur with the general consensus that the RCA venture remains the version of choice. Of several DVD versions, the previous runaway first choice was the lavish and traditionally staged 2009 Met production with Gheorghiu, Alagna, and Marco Armiliato. But despite its sometimes irritating staging concept, musically this spectacular new version equals or surpasses all of its predecessors in any format. Yet another candidate for my 2016 Want List! If you love Puccini, you can’t afford to miss this musically revelatory performance, one that should cause you completely to re-evaluate the merits of this unjustly neglected masterpiece. Passionately, urgently recommended." Report Abuse
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