Pursuing Puccini

For those of us who had proudly embarked on a long-promised Puccini term, now rudely interrupted by COVID19, this week brings two late Puccini operas, one perhaps his least known, and the other certainly his most lasting success.

Dates for the Met screenings are here - remember that these are New York times. An opera available there from 6.30pm is available here at 8.30am the next day. More details of the operas are in this weekly guide .

La rondine (The Swallow) is a mix of styles and plagiarised plots that never quite made it to the top of opera. Think 'La Traviata' (yes, she's a courtesan), La Boheme (there are two couples) plus Merry Widow (great waltzes, as Puccini tried for Viennese fame)... More here

Lisette Oropesa, Marius Brenciu, Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu in the Met’s 2008 production of “La Rondine.”

The New York Times review here has a nice summary of the place of this quasi-operetta in Puccini's life and work. 'It is the quicksilver froth of Puccini’s score, and of Magda and Ruggero’s love, that gives “La Rondine” its shimmering poignancy. The wistful heroine displays none of the steeliness or passion to merit the end of a “Tosca” or a “Madama Butterfly,” nor is she afflicted by Mimi’s or Violetta’s disease. (The intense soprano Kristine Opolais, making her Met debut in these performances, promises to be a more volatile Magda than Angela Gheorghiu was in a beautifully sung but distant portrayal in 2009.)'

It's Gheorghiu's performance, with her now ex-husband Alagna, that screens this week.

From quasi-operetta postwar, we go back to his most famous and most produced verismo opera, a decade and a whole war earlier - Madama Butterfly premiered in 1904.

Screening this week is the Met’s much vaunted production dating from 2009 - Cio-Cio-San is Patricia Racette. This was the famous production using a puppet for the child – later copied by several opera houses and screened anew recently.

Note you can see the playbills for these Met opera performances here. That's very useful if you are trying to find out the date, cast etc!

Remembering Renee

And this week’s offerings from the Met contain another really interesting comparison. The great American soprano Renee Fleming is on your screen twice, with two of her most praised performances. She starts our opera week with her 2014 triumph as Dvořák’s Rusalka.

Slip down this blog for our session on this water nymph opera and Fleming’s performance.

And then the last opera from the Met this week is Fleming's performance as the Marschallin, in 2017 production of the wonderful wry work from Richard Strauss – his glorious essay on love and ageing - Der Rosenkavalier.

This opera was our end of term party back in the days when we had end of term parties: find out more here.

The Marschallin was Fleming's exit role from the Met stage, and this is an unmissable performance. Mezzo Elina Garanca, plays Octavian, the ultimate trouser role; she is pretty good too!


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