Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu were opera's darling couple for nearly fifteen years between 1996 and 2012. As glamorous and talented artists the pair enjoyed a special chemistry in their many collaborations. They recorded heart-on-the-sleeve operas for EMI, starred in numerous productions together, and were even married by the Mayor of New York City on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House.

The most lasting accomplishment of the Alagna/Gheorghiu years may very well be their championing of Puccini's long neglected masterpiece, La Rondine. Introducing (or reintroducing) the work on leading operatic stages, the couple's indelible affinity for the work revived popular interest in La Rondine and introduced many to its seductive charm. During the 2008/09 season, the Metropolitan Opera featured Ms. Alagna and Mr. Gheorghiu in the new production by Nicolas Joël – the company's first production of La Rondine in over seventy years. Audiences were enchanted.

Nicholas Joël’s opulent, art-deco production situates the opera in and around Paris during the 1920s. Ezio Frigerio's set for Act II, which takes place in Bullier's restaurant, creates a romantic, period ambiance and plenty of space for the bustling crowd scene. It also provides an effective stage picture for the glorious quartet "Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso" which stands out here as one of Puccini's most beautiful melodies. The sliding doors and Tiffany stained glass in Act III are an exotic and expensive decorative touch, underscoring one of the practical problems facing the idealistic young lovers.

Ms. Gheorghiu is ideal as Magda, the kept woman and “rondine” of the title: a swallow who strays to the land of dreams only to return to her nest. Her intimate interpretation casts quite a spell. Ms. Gheorghiu's rich, sensuous voice glimmers poignantly throughout, especially in the famous aria "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta", taken here at a surprisingly fleet tempo. Roberto Alagna is a perfect partner as Ruggero. Singing with passion and a brilliant, ringing tone, he falls in love with abandon and cries real tears at the opera's conclusion. Mr. Alagna and Ms. Gheorghiu both give their all in the final scene and their emotionally raw performance is heartbreaking and unforgettable. Get ready to weep!

Puccini's opera is also a fine comedy and its second pair of lovers enlivens several of the scenes with comic relief and fun. Romanian tenor Marius Brenciu is appropriately debonaire and aloof as the poet Prunier. His singing and manner ooze the decadent sophistication befitting a salon celebrity. As Lisette, Magda's maid and Prunier's feisty inamorata, soprano Lisette Oropesa is a delight. Her brightly-colored voice, projected with ease and precision, shows the vocal talents that would propel this rising star beyond this memorable performance. As Magda's keeper Rambaldo, veteran bass Samuel Ramey is appropriately practical, seemingly immune to the young love in the air all around him. Conductor Marco Armiliato leads the Met Orchestra with style and expertise.

La Rondine may not be Puccini's most popular opera, but Mr. Alagna and Ms. Gheorghiu make a persuasive case for it being one of his most sympathetic and moving works. This ultra romantic HD performance remains a testament to their legacy and unforgettable partnership.