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La Rondine review at Royal Opera House London

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The members of the Vilar Young Artists scheme have proved invaluable to Royal Opera, making important contributions, mostly in smaller roles, to many shows. But rarely has one of them been accorded the chance to take on a leading role, an opportunity that was given to the young American soprano Katie Van Kooten, cast here in the title role of Puccini’s opera in a run otherwise dominated by Angela Gheorghiu, the most starry soprano around.

A great opportunity, then, but also an awesome responsibility because the role of Magda is probably Gheorghiu’s best. It says much for the relatively inexperienced Van Kooten’s calibre, both personal and professional, that she pulled the evening off. Anyone expecting to hear Gheorghiu would not have been disappointed by her replacement.

Slender and clearly one of the youngest courtesans in the business, she tackled the demanding opening aria with confidence and savoir faire, winning a warm round of applause. Thereafter she continued to impress with her lyric vocal quality and ease on stage. Only the more dramatic third act showed her limitations – it’s more a Mozart-sized voice right now. Her Italian diction – especially the crucial consonants – needs work.

But a definite success, as is the production as a whole. Another revival is certainly called for, preferably with the Royal Opera’s music director Antonio Pappano – arguably the leading Puccini conductor of our time – in the pit.

Production Information

Royal Opera House, London, November 23

Composer
Puccini
Director
Nicolas Joel
Producer
Royal Opera
Cast includes
Katie Van Kooten, Jonas Kaufmann, Kurt Streit, Annamaria dell’Oste, Robert Lloyd
Running time
2hrs 35mins

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