Opera Scotland

Rondine La rondine; The swallow

Music
Giacomo Puccini (born Lucca, 22 December 1858; died Brussels, 29 November 1924).

Text
Giuseppe Adami.

Source
German text by Dr Alfred Maria Willner and Heinz Reichert.

Premières
First performance: Monte Carlo (Salle Garnier), 27 March 1917.
First UK performance: London (Fulham Town Hall), 9 December 1965.
First performance in Scotland: Aberdeen (His Majesty’s Theatre), 15 June 2006.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Background
Now that La rondine has been performed, and greeted with delight, at many of the world’s leading houses, its comparative neglect for the first seventy or so years seems astonishing. It did get off to a difficult start, since the war forced the cancellation of the Viennese opening and a transfer to Monte Carlo. Even then, the piece was criticised on the grounds that the plot resembled that of La traviata, but it was also treated as a failed attempt at a Lehár-style Viennese operetta. Whatever the cause, it has now been recognised as a delightful and underrated work. In a revision after the opening, the end was changed so that instead of Magda leaving voluntarily, Ruggero finds out about her past and rejects her.

One of the stagings that helped to achieve this overdue rescue was by Francesca Zambello for Opera North in 1994. It was an excellent revival of this production that was seen in Aberdeen in 2006.

Main Characters
Magda de Civry, a courtesan (soprano)
Ruggero Lastouc, a young man from the provinces (tenor)
Lisette, Magda’s maid (soprano)
Prunier, a poet (tenor)
Rambaldo Fernandez, a Parisian banker, Magda’s protector (baritone)

Plot Summary
In a reception at her Parisian salon, Magda and her maid Lisette flirt with Prunier, a poet. Prunier jokingly reads Magda’s palm, and tells her that she will find love again, and like the swallow, fly towards the sun. Ruggero, the son of one of Rambaldo’s friends, and newly arrived in Paris, joins them. When Rambaldo asks the company’s advice as to where Ruggero should go for an entertaining evening, they recommend that he go to the Café Bullier. After the party has dispersed, Magda decides to disguise herself as a grisette and go to the same place. Prunier and Lisette also decide to go out for the evening, since it is her night off, and she disguises herself in one of her mistress’s outfits. At the Café, Magda and Ruggero meet. He does not recognise her, so they dance together, and realise they are attracted to one another. Lisette and Prunier join them, and the poet tactfully maintains Magda’s anonymity and removes Ruggero and Lisette from the scene when he notices Rambaldo’s arrival. Rambaldo confronts Magda about her behaviour, but she decides to leave him and live with Ruggero. After a few months of happiness living on the Riviera, Magda realizes that she will never be fully accepted by Ruggero’s respectable family. Prunier and Lisette have also moved to the south, and their relationship is altogether more positive. Although Ruggero receives a letter from his mother blessing the marriage, Magda still decides to end the affair and return to her old life with Rambaldo.

The Cast

Bianca
 a guest at the salon
Crébillon
 a guest at the salon
Fleury
 a vsndeuse from a fashion house
Gobin
 a guest at the salon
Lisette
 Magda's maid
Magda de Civry
 a courtesan, Rambaldo's mistress
Major-domo
 
Mariette
 a vendeuse from a fashion house
Périchaud
 a guest at the salon
Prunier
 a poet
Rambaldo Fernandez
 a Parisian banker, Magda's protector
Roro
 a vendeuse from a fashion house
Ruggero Lastouc
 a young man from the provinces
Suzy
 a guest at the salon
Yvette
 a guest at the salon

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