La Rondine at Theatre Royal
Puccini’s capacity to revise and rewrite his operas (possibly prompted by some surprising criticism – “Madame Butterfly” had been a decided failure at its 1904 premiere) was exercised in full with “La Rondine”, of which there are four variant versions with two alternative endings – the final act gave him most problems.) The troubled times of its creation can’t have helped, with an Italian composer inspired by Austrian operetta working from a German libretto on a love story set in Paris and perhaps striking a note of frivolity out of tune with the wartime context of 1917. This Opera North production sets it later, evoking the Jazz Age freneticism of the 1920s., The plot feels like a slighter version of “La Traviata” as Magda (Galina Averina) mistress of a wealthy banker, leaves the luxurious life offered by her protector in an attempt to recapture the (comparative) innocence of her youth with a nice young man. It goes without saying that this won’t end well. Somehow the less idealistic relationship between poet Prunier (Elgan Llyr Thomas) and Magda’s maid Lisette (Claire Lees) dressed in her employer’s finery, felt more appealing. The second act, here set in the night life of Montmartre café society, was the highlight of the performance, not just for the heart-wrenching lyricism of Magda’s over-optimistic impersonation of carefree first-time love (I told you this wouldn’t end well) but also for its panoply of outrageous customers, bar flies, waiters, tarts and Apache dancers. In accord with the company’s Green Season policy, the set for Act One, dominated by a gigantic flower arrangement, segued directly into the Bohemian café – very impressive, very green.