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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
LA RONDINE
at the Metropolitan Opera

UNSEEMLY CHARACTERS
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu/Ph: Ken Howard

With opera, we want our dramas oversized - spawned by some dilemma daunting enough to make the very gods tear their hair. Puccini's La Rondine , about a Traviata-esque demimondaine who toys with the notion of an underfunded affair, does not approach that emotional scale, and thus the Met's glamorous new production -imported from London's Royal Opera - makes for an insipid musical outing.

There's good reason that this flimsy, neither-here-nor-there work - a tragically inclined operetta (there's an oxymoron for you) spawned by a Vienna commission in 1913 -hasn't graced the Met stage in over seventy years. Real-life couple Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna do their best to breathe life into the renegade lovers' brief burst of passion (he with a great deal more success than she), but there's no real there there. Ezio Frigerio's Deco-ish sets and Franca Squarciapino's covetable '20s costumes -director Nicolas Joel has moved the action forward from the 1860s -are plenty pleasing as eye candy, but insufficient to sustain interest through three acts.

As the impressionable young hick Ruggero, dazzled by the high life in "Parigi," Alagna alone among the principals succeeds in projecting past the string-heavy orchestration under conductor Marco Armiliato's swooping baton. Once Alagna starts singing (his diction is superb, so you'll catch every word), it's as if the tonal quality shifts into 3D.

As Magda, the kept woman, Gheorghiu is oddly subdued but rallies in time to soar during Act 2's dancehall quartet (a scene marred by a vulgarly choreographed danse fauve), so clearly she has the wherewithal: it's a puzzle why, for the most part, she keeps her voice in check. And her parlor trick of halting an aria's closing note with a gasp, striking a pose, then awaiting applause seems like an aberration the first time she employs it, after Act 1's "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta"(one of the opera's few catchy tunes). The second such instance, soon after, suggests a tic, and the third - employed on the opera's very last note - an affectation that smacks of a circus seal.

 


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