Notes and Editorial Reviews
A valuable addition to Decca’s catalogue of Puccini DVDs. The piece is barely represented on DVD and Marta Domingo’s production was celebrated yet controversial for adapting the ending to reflect the more tragic outcome of the story; this is one of three endings Puccini wrote for the opera and Decca’s DVD will be the only available release of this version.
Excellent cast led by the beautiful Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta. American Marcus Haddock plays her suitor and the soprano Inva Mula is also notable in the role of Lisette.
Number of discs: 1
Disc Format: NTSC DVD 9
Video Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Region Coding: 0 (Worldwide)
Audio Selection: LPCM Stereo/DTS 5.1 Surround
English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese
The only other modern Rondine DVD (Arthaus) is a drably led (by Carlo Rizzi) and drably sung performance from La Fenice. But this new Decca release, taped live at the Washington National Opera, is a fine performance despite a directorial error at the end that almost ruins the evening.
The director in question is Marta Domingo. Puccini wrote and re-wrote the opera; Domingo has opted to include an aria for tenor included in a 1920 German score, along with three duets for Magda and Rambaldo, including one that existed only in piano/vocal score but was fleshed out for a performance in Turin in 1994. I have no argument with any of these inclusions. Where Domingo goes utterly wrong is in her statement that "Puccini was never comfortable with happy endings." Her solution to that is to have Magda commit suicide at the opera's close. What was to be a bittersweet reaction to "world war music" (Puccini's words) therefore has become a charming operetta-like piece with a catastrophic ending. It's a bad idea. Most of the cast tend to overact as well--did people ever swing their arms to such an extent? And I wonder if that, too, is Domingo's notion of what these people's lives must be like.
But the performance itself is excellent. The lavish sets and costumes by Michael Scott are stunningly belle époque, with a huge glass-domed ceiling, plush settees, chandeliers galore, potted palms, art nouveau screens, and wealth dripping from everywhere in Act 1. The demimonde never looked less "demi". The second act is peopled with colorful characters and outrageously colorful costumes--Magda truly does look "dressed down" for the occasion. The third-act beach house, right on the sea, is incredibly inviting.
Soprano Ainhoa Arteta looks every inch the alluring Magda and sings like an angel in her Act 1 "Sogno di Doretta", complete with high, floating pianissimos and blazing top Cs in the second act. She's smitten with Ruggero from the moment she hears his voice, and the camera-work (by the remarkable Brian Large) captures the moment. Her dislike of and irritation with Rambaldo are also clear. Later, she's nicely coy and genuinely in love with Ruggero, and her sad scenes are moving, if, as mentioned above, a bit overdone.
Arteta's equal is tenor Marcus Haddock as Ruggero, in ringing voice, singing with youthful ardor. His phrasing is masterful and he leads the second-act ensemble beautifully. Inva Mula as Lisette and Richard Troxell as Prunier are the most credible and least irritating in their roles I've ever encountered--two lovely, lively performances. William Parcher's Rambaldo is suitably sour but filled with dignity, and the other soloists, waving their arms, are full of flavor.
Emmanuel Villaume leads the Washington National Opera Orchestra and Chorus with, alternately, verismo punch, sweetness, and warmth, making the best case I've heard for the opera. The picture is crystal clear but the sound can be a bit blowsy at full throttle (I've only heard it in LPCM, not Surround). The jury is in: despite the obnoxious ending--I advise you to look away--this is a terrific Rondine.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Emmanuel Villaume, cond; Ainhoa Arteta (
); Inva Mula (
); Marcus Haddock (
); Richard Troxell (
); William Parcher (
); Tony R. Dillon (
); Washington Natl Op O & Ch
DECCA 001304609 (DVD: 110: 00)
This production puts together all three versions of this rarely performed opera. Puccini kept revising the work, since he was not completely satisfied with the first version. Ruggero’s first-act aria, which is usually ignored, is performed here, and the tragic ending with Magda committing suicide is used, rather than the other ending when she simply returns to Rambaldo after Ruggero rejects her.
Fortunately, Marta Domingo’s production is faithful to the intent of Puccini. In a recent issue of this opera on DVD from the Puccini festival that Raymond Tuttle reviewed in
33:1, Tuttle criticized the production. He said: “I am unsure what the director’s ‘vision’ is. In other words, this is one of those modern productions that is full of ideas, but the ideas often seem external to the opera, and unconnected to each other.”
Ainhoa Arteta is a charming and vocally fine Magda. Marcus Haddock looks and acts well as Ruggero; however, he rarely sings softly and is sometimes simply too loud. Richard Troxell is an excellent Prunier, and Inva Mula a delightful Lisette. William Parcher is a dignified Rambaldo. Emmanuel Villaume conducts well and supports the singers.
The booklet contains an interesting essay by Marta Domingo explaining her approach to the production, as well as a listing of bands and a plot summary. The picture quality is excellent. Although I have not seen the version that Tuttle wrote about, I am sure that this performance is far superior to it. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Bob Rose
Works on This Recording
La Rondine by Giacomo Puccini
Aïnhoa Arteta (Soprano),
Marcus Haddock (Tenor),
Inva Mula (Soprano),
Richard Troxell (Tenor)
Washington National Opera Orchestra,
Washington National Opera Chorus
Written: 1917; Italy
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