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Robert Levine, March 2009

In this production from Venice’s La Fenice, director Graham Vick has updated the action from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th while happily keeping it in Paris. It does the opera no harm. Peter J. Davison’s sets and Sue Wilmington’s costumes are lush and handsome: the elegant duplex apartment of the first act, all in glass, chrome, and blues, complete with grand piano, contrasts well with the garish nightclub of Act 2, neon-lit, with motor-scooters coming and going, and a hot dog-vending van, although you might wonder if this really is a student hangout. Men are in dinner jackets and women sport full skirts and/or off-the-shoulder dresses.

The third act is set at a seaside terrace with huge umbrellas and deck chairs—the picture of sunny joy, ironically placed for the story’s sad ending…Emanuele Giannino sings the poet Prunier with great character, and acts the arch-sophisticate well, while Sandra Pastrani’s Lisette is prettily sung and coyly acted. Stefano Antonucci, in the unfortunate role of the un-loved Rambaldo, supplies the show’s best singing…Picture and sound (three formats) are excellent; subtitles are included in all major European languages.

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