Giacomo Puccini – La Rondine
Recorded in London in 1983.
About the Opera:
La rondine (The Swallow) is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami, based on a libretto by Alfred Maria Willner and Heinz Reichert. It was first performed at the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo (or the Théâtre du Casino) in Monte Carlo on 27 March 1917.
In autumn 1913 Puccini was the most revered living opera composer in the world, as the directors of Vienna’s Carltheater commissioned him to compose a Viennese operetta. After confirming that it could take the form of a comic opera with no spoken dialogue in the style of Rosenkavalier, “only more entertaining and more organic,” he agreed. For two years the work proceeded, sometimes intensely, sometimes with great difficulty, and in spring 1916 the opera was finished. The originally intended Viennese première was impeded by the outbreak of the World War I and the entrance of Italy in the Alliance against Austria-Hungary, hence the Opéra de Monte-Carlo was chosen to present it, with Gilda Dalla Rizza and Tito Schipa in the leading roles.
In Italy, Puccini offered the work to his editor Tito Ricordi who declined to buy it, thus Ricordi’s rival, Renzo Sonzogno, obtained the rights and moved the première to neutral Monegass territory. At the première in Monte-Carlo in 1917 the initial reception by the public and press was warm. However, despite the artistic value of the score La rondine has been one of Puccini’s less successful works; “In box office terms, [it] was the poor cousin to the other great hits”. There is no established final version of it, Puccini being dissatisfied, as often, with the result of his work; he revised it many times to the point of making three versions (1917, 1920, 1921), with two completely different endings, but died before clearly deciding on a final version. The second version was premiered at Teatro Massimo, Palermo in 1920, whereas the third was not heard until 1994 in Turin. Moreover, a fire at Casa Sonzogno archives caused by Allied bombing during the war destroyed parts of the score which had to be restored based on the surviving vocal-piano arrangements. The orchestration of the third version was finally completed in authentic Puccinian style by Italian composer Lorenzo Ferrero at the request of Teatro Regio di Torino and subsequently performed there on 22 March 1994.
The modern day performance history of La rondine in Europe includes the première of the third version at Teatro Regio di Torino (1994), as well as performances at La Scala (1994), Leeds Opera North (1994, 2001), Oper Bonn and Ludwigshaven State Opera House (1995), Teatro del Giglio in Lucca (1998), Teatro Filarmonico di Verona (2002), Kansallisooppera, Helsinki (2002, 2003, 2007), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London (2002, 2005), Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris (2005), Opéra de Monte-Carlo (2007), and La Fenice in Venice where it was the opening title of the 2008 season. In the US, major productions were seen at the Washington National Opera (1998), Los Angeles Opera (2000, 2008), Atlanta Opera (2002), the Boston Lyric Opera (2003), New York City Opera (2005), Dallas Opera (2007), San Francisco Opera (2007), Sarasota Opera (2008) and the New York Metropolitan Opera (2008). The 31 December 2008 performance at the Metropolitan Opera with Angela Gheorghiu as Magda was the company’s first staging of the work in 70 years. The matinee performance on 10 January 2009 was broadcast in HD to movie theaters and schools throughout the USA. The Met used a joint production of the Royal Opera House and the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse directed by Nicolas Joël. Following its premiere at the Royal Opera House in 2002, the Joël production was seen at the Théâtre du Châtelet, and San Francisco Opera before coming to the Met. Angela Gheorghiu had also sung the role of Magda in the production’s 2002 premiere and 2005 revival at the Royal Opera House and in the 2007 performances at San Francisco Opera.
Act 1 – At a cocktail party in Magda’s salon, Prunier declares that love is in the air. He begins singing his latest song, which Magda completes (Aria: “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta”). She explains that as the kept woman of Rambaldo, she does not know true love; she recalls her youth, her aunt, and a young student she met and loved briefly (Aria: “Ore dolci e divine”). The young man Ruggero enters with an introduction for Rambaldo and asks where is the best place to spend an evening in Paris. The guests agree it is Bullier’s. After the guests leave, Prunier returns in secret to escort the maid Lisette to that cabaret. Later, Magda, on a whim, disguises herself and also goes.
Act 2 – At Bullier’s, everyone is singing and dancing. Magda meets Ruggero, and they dance and fall in love. Lisette recognizes Magda, but Prunier tells her she is mistaken. At the table, Lisette confesses to borrowing Magda’s clothing and jewelry. Rambaldo enters, and Magda quietly has Prunier hide Ruggero. Rambaldo demands an explanation, and she explains that this is true love. She wants to stay with Ruggero and leave him. After Rambaldo leaves, Ruggero returns, and the couple confesses their love.
Act 3 – Magda and Ruggero are living in a cottage by the sea. He has no idea how they will pay their mounting bills and he tells her that he has written to his parents for permission to marry her (Aria: “Dimmi che vuoi seguirmi”). Magda is deeply touched, but knows that she can never marry him because of her past. Prunier and Lisette arrive. She has had a disastrous and brief career as an actress, constantly criticized by Prunier; she begs for her job back, and Magda consents. Prunier delivers the message that Rambaldo wants her back, and tells her that she cannot maintain a life here. Ruggero returns with the letter permitting the marriage, but Magda finally tells all to Ruggero. Like a swallow, she flies back to Rambaldo, leaving Ruggero heart-broken.
Alternate Ending – In an alternate ending, as staged by companies such as the Washington National Opera and the Los Angeles Opera (following research by and under the direction of Marta Domingo), Ruggero receives a letter from his mother telling him that she is not really Paulette but Magda, the mistress of Rambaldo. He is angered and asks who she is and why she lied to him. She says that she thought he could save her from the life she was leading. He leaves her, and distraught she looks to the seas saying she will fly to the sea like the swallow. She walks into the sea to drown herself as the curtain comes down.
01. Act I (38:20)
02. Act II (29:44)
01. Act III (35:16)
Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 244.47 Mb, 1 hour 54 minutes. Covers & info included.