La Rondine
Los Angeles review by Willard Manus

Los Angeles Opera's revival of its 2000 production of Puccini's LA RONDINE has much to offer--some splendid singing, sumptuous sets & costumes (by Michael Scott), spirited conducting by Keri-Lynn Wilson (in her company debut). LA Opera's chorus also did valiant work, under the guidance of Grant Gershon.


Called "an opera which imitates operetta," LA RONDINE is set in France's Second Empire period (1852-70) when royalty indulged itself with frivolous parties and love affairs. Puccini set out to write a lighthearted, fluffy comedy but, almost against his will, ended up with a darker work, thanks to the heartbreaking story at the opera's core: the love of Magda (Patricia Racette), the world-weary mistress of a wealthy Parisian, for Ruggero (Marcus Haddock), an idealistic young aristocrat from the provinces.

Both Racette and Haddock are strong, even powerful singers who had many effective moments during the course of the evening, but they seemed mismatched as a couple, not only by age and looks but chemistry. Director Marta Domingo didn't help them out with her staging, which often set them far upstage, blocked from the audience by ill-placed minor characters (such as the flower-girls at Bullier's). Haddock did deliver the vocal goods, though, with his classic love aria in Act II, which Domingo skilfully orchestrated when the singer was joined by a quartet, then a chorus, of singers.

As for the other voices, Amanda Squitieri made a vivid impression as the maid, Lisette; ditto Greg Fedderly as her vain, starry-eyed boyfriend Prunier, and David Pittsinger as the wealthy and decadent Rambaldo (Magda's sugar daddy).

LA RONDINE is the final opera on LA Opera's current schedule; the 2008/09 season will commence is September with the production of IL TRITTICO, also by Puccini. Two of the three mini-operas will be directed by William Friedkin, the other by Woody Allen (making his operatic debut), with James Conlon conducting.

Next to come are the U.S. premiere of Howard Shore's THE FLY (based on David Cronenberg's cult film), libretto by David Henry Hwang; MADAMA BUTTERFLY (Puccini again) with Liping Zhang in the lead role; CARMEN, starring Viktoria Vizin and German Villar; Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE, designed by Gerald Scarfe; the first two operas in Wagner's Ring Cycle--DAS RHEINGOLD and DIE WALKURE, designed and directed by Achim Freyer; an original, THE BIRDS by Walter Braunfels; and Verdi's LA TRAVIATA, featuring Marina Poplavskaya and Massimo Giordano. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call 213-972-8001 or