An opera worth revisiting
Darby G. Fegan | 01/21/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit that I'm a die hard fan of Puccini, and that I'm also a big fan of La Rondine. I accept it for the atypical, hybrid work that it is, and expect nothing more from it. I cannot imagine seeing the "controversial" alternate ending, in which the heroine, Magda, ends her own life! I don't consider that the work is second rate Lehar, or that it is a poor man's La Traviata or Der Rosenkavalier. La Rondine stands on it's own as first rate Puccini! Magda's two Act One arias, the stunning Act Two quartet, and the haunting final duet rank among Puccini's most inspired creations. It is worth reading into the history of the opera, and why it was largely dismissed by critics, especially considering that it was considered by many too trivial to be written during a time of war. I recently saw the Met's long overdue new production of the opera, with the famous "love couple" of opera, Georghiu and Alagna, brilliantly conducted by Armiliato. Armiliato alone justifies the reasoning for rescuing this work from unjust neglect. Georghiu and Alanga were compelling in their roles, although neither was in prime vocal estate. The production is sumptuous, although a bit over the top, especially in the supposed "modest" seaside hotel of the third act, replete with Tiffany style windows! Hopefully this production will be released on DVD soon. I'm tempted to order a DVD with Fiorenza Cedolins as Magda, but having heard her live in Italy twice, she is not a first rate artist, and her performance would be adequate at best. I have owned LP recordings of the Moffo and TeKanawa/Domingo versions for several years, and decided to purchase new CD sets of the Moffo recording and the 1997 Georghiu/Alagna recording. I have always loved Moffo in her prime, and this was recorded when she was at her considerable best. Her sultry timbre is unmistakable, and so appropriate for ladies of the "demi monde," such as Magda and Violetta, in which Moffo specialized. Moffo left us many memorable performances on LP and video, and she is truly missed among opera lovers. This is a lovely recording, with all the principals giving strong performances. I wanted the 1997 Georghiu/Alagna recording as well, as it was much touted at the time of its release. It lives up to the hype in my opinion, with Georghiu and Alagna giving beautifully sung performances. I have to admit that I have only recently become a fan of Georghiu's, as I was always resistant to the media hype. I have come to love her personal identification with the heroines she portrays, as well as the highly individual dusky timbre she possesses, a quality many call "morbidezza." I did not purchase the TeKanawa/Domingo version on CD, as Maazel is at sea with this score, and while I adore TK, I find her a bit bland in Puccini. I can't close without mentioning my two desert island versions of Magda's famous aria "Chi il bel sogno..." For anyone who has never heard Leontyne Price's "blue" album recording of the aria, you must! It will likely never be bettered. She savors the high b's and c like no other, in what she calls her "nosebleed" region. A close second comes from the divine Monserrat Caballe on her all Puccini album. She exhibits phrasing and breath control through the high perilous phrases like no other I've ever heard, and the aria is tailor made for her high pianissimi. Other versions of the aria by great singers such as Tebaldi, Freni, Fleming, etc. are merely mortal!"
Puccini La Rondine
George Bratton | Sunnyvale, CA USA | 07/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This rarely-performed Puccini gem has been beautifully captured on this recording. Ms. Gheorghiu's voice is amazing. She was born to sing this role. The supporting cast is equally outstanding. Supported by the London Symphony Orchestra, it doesn't get any better than this. The engineering is outstanding. If you're a fan of Puccini, this recording is a must have for your collection. Superb!"