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We all sat waiting anxiously for the curtain to rise on Riccardo Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini" after almost a 27 year hiatus on the Met stage; but with each passing act, one could sense the audience waiting for the closing curtain just as intently. Not to say that the performances or design weren't a wonder to behold. The opera and production as a whole just seemed a bit trivial in comparison. Despite the story however, the musical prowess of Zandonai's score, the meticulously detailed sets, and exquisite costuming gave Monday nights opening of "Francesca da Rimini" redeeming beauty amid a insipid story.

"Francesca" is adapted from the successful play by Gabriele D'Annunzio which is based off the poignant yet brief episode from Dante's "Inferno." The opera is split into four brief and contrasting acts. In Act I the lovers meet; Act II they acknowledge their love amidst an aggressive battle; Act III they act upon their desires; and in Act IV the lovers are met with a bloody death by hand of Francesca's husband. With each act running close to 30 minutes each with just as long of an intermission between, the night seemed disjointed yet draining among such a simple story line.

While the title role of Francesca, played by Eva-Maria Westbroek, was sung with great bravado it would seem that the driving force and strongest depiction of character went to baritone Mark Delavan's portrayal of Gianciotto. His ability to play the duality of the role with brutality and affection was perfectly revealed on the Met's towering stage. Tenor Marcello Giordani as Paolo was emotively effective when needed though vocally strained in order to sing the role. As a whole, both the company and orchestra, under the direction of conductor Marco Armiliato, presented the much-anticipated beautiful work of Zandonai with command. The combinations of Italian melody with the powerful orchestrations of "Francesca da Rimini" are some of Zandonai's best work.

"Francesca da Rimini" remains at the Metropolitan Opera through March 22. For more information or to purchase tickets call (212) 362-6000 or visit

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From This Author Scott Frost

Scott Frost is a Production and Stage Manager and a Freelance Costume Designer. In addition to being a theatrical manager and designer he currently works (read more...)