Posts Tagged Comic opera

Little-known Gem Kicks off Opera Season

Friday, October 5th, 2018 | Permalink

Some fine musical works are initially overshadowed by more illustrious creations by the same artist. For example, “Michelle” and “NoWhere Man” from the Beatles’ 1965 Rubber Soul album are excellent songs that were far more famous than “In My Life” which Rolling Stone magazine listed as the 23rd greatest song of all time in 2004.

A similar case can be made for Giacomo Puccini‘s opera, La Rondine. Perhaps the least known and performed of his mature works, its troubled creative origins and indifferent premiere reception relegated it to anonymity compared to La Boheme and Turandot. But the Minnesota Opera’s final dress rehearsal Thursday evening revealed an opera brimming with nostalgic love music and modern (for 1916) dance rhythms such as the tango.

Parisian high society at Magda’s apartment.

Dismissed by one critic as “bad Lehar” for its “lilting waltz tunes, pop-styled melodies, and nostalgic love music, La Rondine contains one of Puccini’s more accessible and melodic scores which befits the heroine Magda’s dilemma. This Parisian courtesan’s encounter with a naive young poet reawakens her desire for a life filled with genuine affection (the life she wants) versus a successful and secure existence in the highest realms of Parisian society (the life she has). Magda’s conflict might resemble Violetta’s in Verdi’s La Traviata, but the decision she makes isn’t adulterated by the melodramatic complication of tuberculosis.

The cast provides splendid singing and nuanced interpretation to their roles regardless. Celine Byrne is glorious as Magda in revealing the pathos and longing for a life she can never have. Leonardo Capalbo is equally fine as her beleaguered and bewildered young lover. Levi Hernandez (Magda’s protector, Rambaldo), Lisa Marie Rogali (Magda’s flirty maid Lisette) and Christian Sanders (the cynical poet, Prunier) provide excellent counterpoints both musically and thematically as secondary characters. The rest of the cast embody hedonistic Parisian society during the First World War with sonic gusto.

La Rondine may be derivative and a bit under-formulated (Puccini was rewriting the third act at the time of his death), but its glorious score and soaring arias make the five presentations (October 6, 9, 11, 13-14) more than worthwhile viewing for opera and music lovers alike. Congratulations to you, Minnesota Opera, for taking a chance in my lifetime to kick off the 2018-19 season with this under-appreciated gem.