|Prunier (Mason Gates), Lisette (Elena Galvan) Magda (Amanda Kingston) and|
Ruggero (Jason Slaydon). All photos by Pat Kirk.
Opera San JosePuccini’s La Rondine
November 11, 2017
The latter years of Puccini would serve as an excellent blueprint for maintaining an active mental life in one’s senior citizenry. Much like Verdi before him, the great composer seemed determined to try everything under the sun and continually expand his musical skills. In the long run, his ambitions may actually have damaged his legacy. His California opera, La fanciulla del West, is so difficult to stage that it’s not often produced. The great Chinese spectacle of Turandot appears more frequently, but suffers from an ending that Puccini was unable to complete and no one else was able to resolve.
|Lisette (Elena Galvan) and Prunier (Mason Gates).|
The fact that La Rondine is still worth performing is a testament to its creator’s nimble mind and fantastical skills. The score is an elegant gem filled with Puccini’s continuing explorations. It’s through-composed, , an evolving 20th Century trend that sought greater dramatic reality through the elimination of set pieces. He uses dance rhythms as a tribute to the Viennese tradition (a few waltzes and even a tango), simultaneously using them as leitmotifs for the characters. One can also detect the Oriental tonalities that play a part in all of Puccini’s post-Butterfly works, notably in the palm-reading scene (Eastern mysticism?). There’s even a bit of Donizettian contrapuntalism in the café scene.
|Amanda Kingston as Magda.|
Playing Prunier, tenor Mason Gates exhibits vivid lyricism and (for lack of a more technical term) a distinct sense of swagger. His portrayal is comically perfect, Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter minus 70 percent madness. Playing the housemaid Lisette, soprano Elena Galvan displays an agile tone and excellent comic skills (notably a pantomime of being pelted by tomatoes at her singing debut). Together, these two have a bickering repartee much like the lighter moments of Boheme’s Marcello and Musetta.
|Magda (Amanda Kingston) and Rambaldo (Trevor Neal).|
Through November 26, California Theater, 345 S. First Street, 408/437-4450, operasj.org.