A friend and I share season tickets to a local opera company. (While I realize it won't be difficult to figure out which one, I'll be professional and withhold the company name and some other vital info). Last night, we attended La Rondine. We were both very excited about this opera. Namely, neither of us had seen it in its entirety, knowing only a famous aria. My friend was particularly excited to see the soprano playing Magda, who she had seen several years before in a production of Madame Butterfly.
The opera got off on bad footing when the supertitles were not working. In fact, for the entire first act, we were without supertitles. Imagine seeing a foreign language film without supertitles. While you can get the gist of the story, it's not quite the same as having the translations flashing as the story goes along. As the first act progressed, we became increasingly disheartened by the production. Several local talents were playing some of the lesser characters. They were difficult to be heard at best. And the soprano my friend was so excited to hear again...she was terrible. No, seriously, she was grossly under pitch throughout the entire first act. And she did nothing but portamento to her high notes, which were all strident. (Portamento=a technique of gliding from one note to another without actually defining intermediate notes; a smooth gliding between two pitches) Yes, this technique is appropriate in opera; however, it is not appropriate between each and every note. To say that Magda overused the portamento is like saying Madden overuses the on-screen scribbling. Get my drift?
At the conclusion of the first act, my friend and I turned to one another and agreed that we were thus far quite underwhelmed. We hoped the cast members were now thoroughly warmed up. As the second act was about to begin, the house announced that the supertitles would not appear at all due to a massive technical foorah. Thankfully, we'd prepared for that during the intermission and read the brief synopsis of acts one and two in the program. At least we had a clue what was to come. The second act was only improved by the fact that the chorus appeared and did most of the singing. The tenor playing Ruggero was worse than Magda. His vocal attacks were just that...attacks. What should have been beautiful lines were butchered at best...by both Ruggero and Magda. The final note of act two was the last straw for both of us. We couldn't stand the thought of listening to those two butcher the remainder of the opera. For the first time in my life, I left in the middle of a performance.
I should have taken heed of the review in the local paper. While I usually ignore this particular gentleman's reviews, he was dead on this time. The only two redeeming appearances were made by Magda's maid, Lisette, who was absolutely fabulous, and the chorus in act two. Otherwise, we should have opted for a night on the town & saved ourselves the torture of butchered Puccini.
If any of you saw the opera I speak of, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.