Review: A Puccini Suite at the Met Strikes a Note of Desperation

The Met this week was no country for tenors, either. As Turandot, Oksana Dyka’s steely, occasionally strident soprano swamped the Calàf of Arnold Rawls, a sweetly modest understudy singing his first full Met performance. Russell Thomas showed some characteristically burnished tone but not a little weariness as Rodolfo in “Bohème,” while Roberto Aronica was a merely sour Pinkerton in “Butterfly.”


A scene from “La Bohème.” Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Whatever their level of quality, all generally hit their spots and elicited some sad faces, if not many real tears. And Carlo Rizzi (“Turandot”) and two youngsters, Alexander Soddy (“Bohème”) and Jader Bignamini (“Butterfly,” in his company debut) conducted with properly Puccinian balances of lushness and forward motion.

The steroidal “Turandot” staging, one of the Met’s two remaining Franco Zeffirelli productions, looks ever trashier and more unhelpfully, unevocatively excessive. “Bohème,” the other Zeffirelli, comes into intimate focus when the singers are strong and specific; on Wednesday it seemed looming and drafty. Anthony Minghella’s “Butterfly” production, which opened the Met’s 2006-07 season, is still a sleekly stylish, often elegant and moving show, a revealingly spare canvas for Cio-Cio-Sans more varied than Ms. Hui. But it’s starting to show its age — looking not sluggish, exactly, but a little scuffed.

Some vividness came in smaller roles: Lucas Meachem as a rueful, witty Marcello and Matthew Rose as a rueful, witty Colline in “Bohème”; Alexey Lavrov and Eduardo Valdes as a sonorous Ping and Pong in “Turandot”; Avery Amereau, a rising contralto, packing a great deal of chocolaty tone and restrained emotion into her few lines as Kate Pinkerton near the end of “Butterfly.”

Nothing was disastrous on any of these evenings, but nothing lingered in the mind or heart. For something that does, go see “The Exterminating Angel.”

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