Angela Gheorghiu and Misha Didyk sparkle as Puccini’s star-crossed lovers
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel
Puccini’s 1917 sort-of Viennese operetta LA RONDINE (“The Swallow”) spread butter on the composer’s bread, pure and simple. Over in England, dryer loaves were being rationed. “It’s crummy!” cried RICORDI, publishers of Puccini’s previous hits, “Madama Butterfly” and “The Girl of the Golden West”. The composer then gave the nod to EDOARDO SONZOGNO. The publishing firm jumped at the opportunity to leaven its reputation as host to the great Italian composer. A perenially-sweet morsel of an investment, Casa Musicale Sonzogno is still swallowing its profits from “La Rodine”.
LA RONDINE, Act I. Production photos by Terrence McCarthy
The neutral territory of Monte Carlo and its Théâtre de l’Opéra was selected as the site for its World Premiere. On Tuesday night, March 27, 1917, the 520-seat house was sold-out for Puccini’s bagatelle concerning a free-spirited glamour girl who just can’t help it. The constant noise of guns – from that never-ending war to end all wars – was shut out come the first downbeat. Czar Nicholas II had been forced from the Russian throne less than two weeks before – but, that was their problem. On the other side of the Atlantic, even though Wilson was voted back in for a 2nd term, the elected representatives would slam both his Veto and presidential phobias against anyone born east of the Black Sea. Seems the wily Congress believed a worthy immigrant was someone who could read up to 80 words. In anything! Back in Monte Carlo, the crowd was ready to lighten-up. Fast-forward ninety years to San Francisco – this La Rondine is being produced in association with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse and has already played back in Monte Carlo! After about two hours and 15 minutes – mesmerized by Art Deco dreams and thoughts of bittersweet champagne cocktails – the supertitle-reading audience filled the War Memorial with shouts of “Bravo/a/i”. San Francisco Opera’s LA RONDINE is Puccini’s kiss on the cheek – a timely bus for just about everything.
MISHA DIDYK, Tenor and ANGELA GHEORGHIU, Soprano
Every playwright, composer and producer knows that a so-called minor work can be elevated with an ideal cast and A-1 production values. Puccini’s La Rondine is filled with easily recognized stock characters. It’s thin plot and shiny veneer draws upon a multitude of popular melodrama, racy fiction, and drawing room tableaux. Throw in a fortune teller, a soubrette wannabe actress, and the attractve Older Rich Guy with deep pockets standing between his non-commital mistress and the new guy on the block – still, nobody is completely ruined, reputations remain more or less in tact, no one dies on the shores of Louisiana or the Egyptian desert or from a Biblical curse or an un-checked plague. The only thing La Rondine needs is a well-equipped cast who have already performed those related roles in all those other operas and are probably contracted for them somewhere next week. Sandwiched between such engagements, the roles in La Rondine are like breakfasting at Tiffany’s.
LA RONDINE, ACT II
Soprano Angela Gheorghiu makes her highly-anticipated debut at San Francisco Opera in this Art Deco-inspired production of Giacomo Puccini’s La Rondine, which is new to San Francisco Opera and plays until November 29th at the War Memorial Opera House. Tenor Misha Didyk – who sang opposite Karita Mattila in last season’s Manon Lescaut and with mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick in The Maid of Orléans – returns to San Francisco Opera as the naïve young swain (Ruggero). Mr. Didyk is the perfect choice for the lover left in the lurch. Mr. Didyk’s comely appearance, brightly resonant tenor, polished dramatic skills and elegant manner are the stuff dreams are made of.
GERARD POWERS & ANNA CHRISTY, with GIACOMO PUCCINI
Gheorghiu and Didyk are joined by soprano Anna Christy as Lisette, tenor Gerard Powers, who makes his San Francisco Opera debut in the role of Prunier, and bass-baritone Philip Skinner as Rambaldo. San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Melody Moore sings Bianca, and Adler Fellows Rhoslyn Jones (Yvette) and Katharine Tier (Suzy) round out the cast.
Conductor Ion Marin returns to San Francisco Opera for the first time since leading the 1992 production of The Barber of Seville to conduct this elegant production conceived by Paris Opera Director Nicolas Joël. Director Stephen Barlow makes his San Francisco Opera debut.
MISHA DIDYK, ANGELA GHEORGHIU, and PHILIP SKINNER
Add these recordings to your Classical Library:
LA RONDINE – Featuring the husband and wife team of Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu. Antonio Pappano conducts the London Symphony Orchestra
LA RONDINE – Featuring Anna Moffo, Daniele Barioni, and Mario Sereni. F. Molinari-Pradelli conducts the orchestra and ensemble of the RCA Italian Opera.
FRANCESCA DI RIMINI – Misha Didyk and Svetla Vassileva are featured in this beautiful opera by Rachmaninov. Gianandrea Noseda conducts the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
Visit Seán on YouTube: SAMSON & DELILAH – Meet Seán Martinfield
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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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