* Notes *
Puccini's La Rondine opened at San Francisco Opera yesterday. This co-production with Le Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse and Royal Opera, Covent Garden is easy on the eye. Ezio Frigerio's set is beautiful, evoking Gustav Klimt and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Likewise, Franca Squarciapino's Roaring Twenties costumes are quite pretty. The choreography and dancing were solid, especially in Act II, set in a dance hall.
Angela Gheorghiu made her long-awaited debut at San Francisco Opera as Magda de Civry. She sounded surprisingly tentative in Act I, particularly in "Che il bel sogno." Her high notes were sung on key, but not with complete conviction. Some of her lower notes were difficult to hear, and sometimes her breathing was rather audible. Her acting was strangely timid as well, her shoulders hunched. She is gorgeous, I would never have guessed she is 42 years old, just a few years younger than Karita Mattila. I kept comparing Gheorghiu to Mattila during the evening, it was impossible for me to not think of the latter's strong performance in Manon Lescaut last season. Both La Rondine and Manon Lescaut are less popular Puccini works, both singers sang with Misha Didyk in the lead tenor role. However, Mattila was fully engaged as Manon, and one cannot say the same for Gheorghiu as Magda.
Misha Didyk had good volume as Ruggero Lastouc, though his voice can be harsh at times. Tenor Gerard Powers (Prunier) was more pleasing, but one of his high notes in Act III was strained and unpleasant. Anna Christy sounded bright and sprightly as Lisette, she was perfectly delightful.
* Tattling *
Standing room was full, as was most of the orchestra level and the boxes. I was somewhat disturbed that the house manager of the opera house was not there, this is the first time in four seasons that I have attended in standing room and have not seen him about.
The audience was reasonably well-behaved. There was a particular man jangling his keys in orchestra level standing room that was vaguely annoying. Another man in Z 113 rustled a plastic bag that he kept his cough drops and water bottle in, and I was reminded of how I cannot wait for San Francisco's plastic bag ban. The woman in ZZ 111 spoke slightly too much during the first half of the opera and stood up at one point to trade seats with her companion. During the second half she was on oxygen, and her breaths were rather loud, so I had to retreat over to another area. Obviously, she couldn't help it, but it was difficult at first for me to discern where the gasps were coming from and I spent too much time worrying that I had lost my mind.