La Rondine is a lovely and under-appreciated opera(Puccini's most under-appreciated perhaps), while not as dramatically compelling as Tosca, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly or Turandot the story has a lot of charm and the music- Magda's Chi Il Bel Sogno di Doretta being the most famous- is divine as ever from Puccini. If you love La Rondine you will love this New York City Opera production of it, back in the days when NYCO were in their prime.
The costumes are absolutely gorgeous, looking better in my opinion than the costumes for any of the productions available on DVD, and the sets are not over-elaborate, funny or stark, instead they are elegant and in keeping with the simple gentle nature of the story. The staging manages to be one of the production's high points, it's remarkably sympathetic with the deftly handled flower-laden ensemble in the Act 2 quartet, conveying romantic and cynical vibes, and the truly moving final scene being particularly note-worthy, and maintains the opera's gentle spirit beautifully.
From a musical point of view, this production of La Rondine is just as impressive. The orchestral playing capture the poetry, nuances and lyricism of Puccini's score with luscious tone, sweeping elegance and an excellent sense of Romantic style. The chorus are well-balanced vocally and are hardly slouches as actors either. The conducting is stylistically idiomatic and firm but never rigid and always accommodating. The performances are very good indeed, though for personal tastes Richard McKee does little with Rambaldo and sounds very dry vocally. Elizabeth Knighton is a wonderful and very moving Magda however and apart from some occasional harshness at the top her voice has a lot of warmth, from the start right to the end she is easy to root for. Jon Garrison is handsome and youthful(looks-wise and vocally) Ruggero and acts with ardent charm and sympathetic grace as well as singing confidently. He and Knighton share a quite bewitching chemistry so you do believe that they're in love. David Eisler sparkles with wit as Prunier the poet and Claudette Petersen brings plenty of zest to Lisette without over-doing it.
Overall, an enchanting production of an under-appreciated Puccini opera. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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