Puccini at the Peacock
he Peacock Theatre in London's West End has had a varied life - a cinema, a television studio theatre, and now as a theatre for a variety of performances under the aegis of Sadler's Wells. Yesterday it hosted a rare performance by British Youth Opera of Puccini's La Rondine (The Swallow), premiered in 1917 but performed much less often than his well-known operas.
Magda, the Parisian mistress of wealthy banker Rambaldo, meets a young man, Ruggero, at the banker's house and later at a fashionable club. They fall in love, and Magda impulsively rejects Rambaldo. They move away from Paris and live together; but when Ruggero tells her his family will accept her as his wife, she knows that her past life makes it impossible: she leaves him; he collapses in grief.
Despite the tragic ending, the opera is lighter than most of Puccini's works (it was originally commissioned as on operetta), with attractive, lyrical scoring. In this production a reduced orchestration was used, but though occasionally it sounded a little thin, on the whole it suited the lighter touch of the opera. The production was set vaguely just after the First World War (with costumes ranging into the 1920s) which worked well: though Rambaldo having a couple of bodyguards carrying violin-cases - perhaps intended to suggest he was really a gangster - was a little out of place.
The performers may be young, and not big operatic stars, but there was little need to make allowances. Meeta Raval as Magda displayed a fine voice and srong acting talents: Telman Guzhevsky as Ruggero was a little colourless (though this is partly Puccini's fault - the part is somewhat under-written and tends to be overshadowed by Magda) and occasionally sounded a little strained; he came over better in the third act, which gives the singer more to get his teeth into. Thomas Herford as the poet Prunier and Sadhbh Dennedy as Lisette, his lover (and Magda's insubordinate maid) both sang well and created strong likeable characters.
The British Youth Opera provides training and performance opportunities for young singers, and on the evidence of this production does a fine job: it's good to hear an unfamiliar opera in live performance.
Posted: Fri - September 12, 2008 at 09:15 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM