PUCCINI: La Rondine (complete opera, in English), Blu-ray (2013)

Performers: Teresa Stratas (Magda)/ Anastasios Vrenios (Ruggero)/Barbara Shuttleworth (Lisette)/ John Walker (Prunier)/ Cornelis Opthpf (Rambaldo)/ CBC Orch. and Chorus/ Brian Priestman
Producer: Edward Cardona
Studio: CBC VAI 4564
Video: 4:3 1080p HD color
Audio: Mono PCM
No Region Code 
Length: 85 minutes
Rating: ****

This is a well-set, exceptionally well-sung, and nicely captured—though seriously cut—production for Canadian Broadcasting from 1971. Remember what color television looked like back then? It comes as quite a surprise in this age of pimple-clear, high-def visuals with stunning sound and zillions of crystalline pixels, believe me! But it also has a sort of soft-pastel beauty to it, and the mono sound (yes, television in those days was monophonic) in this case is actually very, very good.

The production is outstanding in every way, and the sets are exceptionally fine and pointed to the period. Puccini of course went round circles in Rondine, never really acclimating himself to the pseudo-operetta role, and could not give himself totally to the genre, needing a large degree of emotional angst and drama. The result is a piece that is neither operetta nor grand opera, but a fusion of the two, though the lightness and lyric beauty of the score does lean toward the former while the sung through methodology relies on the latter.

The singing is exceptional even though geared to the television fixtures, but the movement and acting are excellent within those confines. Stratas is in her prime, looking fantastic, and very moving as Magda, while the underrated Anastasios Vrenios (who now teaches in the northwest United States I believe) provides a fine romantic foil. This has not been seen since an old A & E broadcast a long time ago, and the English, while an irritant to some purists, works very well in this redaction. I would still want the entire opera whole, but this is a unique and special production that deserves its resurrection.

—Steven Ritter