“La Rondine” by Puccini, or how virtue can lead to self sacrifice…

Met Opera House building–Lincoln Center/Tuesday March 26th, 2024.

Welcome back friends, and welcome once again, to the wonderful Met Opera.

Yay!

And welcome to a beautiful, sad, yet virtuous, romantic, and at times, lighthearted and fun, 1920’s (Joël) production, of classic early 20th century, “verismo” (“realist” or “true” in Italian) post-romantic Italian opera, from the great Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), about a courtesan, who will sacrifice her love, in the name of virtue.

Wow.

Welcome to Puccini’s beautiful and virtuous (1917) opera, “La Rondine” (or “The Swallow” in English).

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Based on an outline from Viennese author, journalist and composer Alfred Maria Willner (1859-1929), and his collaborator, the acclaimed librettist, Heinz Reichert (1877-1940), the finalized libretto for “La Rondine”, is by another illustrious librettist, this time, an Italian, Giuseppe Adami (1878-1946), with whom Puccini went on to collaborate with, on a few other opera projects: (1918) “Il Tabarro”, and Puccini’s last masterpiece, (1924) which actually premiered 2 years later, (1926) “Turandot”, after Italian composer, Franco Alfano (1875-1954), finished “Turandot” for Puccini.

Wow.

And this short, 3 acts “La Rondine” opera, which is way less dramatic than many other operas, is actually quite enjoyable, because Puccini’s music is gorgeous, from beginning to end, and even if there aren’t as many “arias” (as in other previous works of his), “La Rondine” is still super entertaining and joyful.

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Thanks especially, to its fun, youthful, lighthearted quality, infusing overall, the story, permeating happily, the bleaker realities of (financial) survival, at the time, which many “courtesans” and “maids”, faced.

Wow.

And Puccini’s (1917) “La Rondine”‘s overall youthful, playful, “lightness of being” atmosphere, (reminiscent of Puccini’s earlier, 1896, youthful “La Bohème”, which at times, is also super fun, silly-infused, and yet, in the end, super tragic), makes “La Rondine”, not only timeless, but also, quite engaging.

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And perhaps, Puccini’s (1917)”La Rondine”, to console everyone, of its nevertheless, sad, yet, non tragic ending, also features the courtesan’s real moral character depth, as in in Verdi’s earlier (1853) “La Traviata”, to make her (“La Rondine”‘s courtesan), even more likeable.

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And (to me), this final character depth from “La Rondine”‘s courtesan, gives this opera slightly more gravitas, as otherwise, “La Rondine” appears unusually lighthearted, yet sad (way less tragic though, than Verdi’s “Traviata” or Puccini’s “Bohème”, where in each case, the heroine dies in the end).

Wow.

And ultimately, what I like about this work, in addition to Puccini’s gorgeous music, is the freedom to choose how to spend the rest of her life, displayed by “La Rondine”‘s courtesan, which to me, really, is a testament, of just how modern, for its time, “La Rondine” is.

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Well done Puccini!

But let me first, tell you about “La Rondine”‘s plot.

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How to summarize simply Puccini’s “La Rondine”‘s plot?

“La Rondine” depicts in 3 acts, the destiny of Magda, a Parisian courtesan (and mistress of Rambaldo, a wealthy man), who will fall in love, without meaning to, with Ruggero, (a newcomer to Paris, and a dashing young man), whom she (Magda) will ultimately leave, after living for a while, with him (Ruggero), in sunnier, southern landscapes, when Ruggero eventually asks her (Magda), to marry him, as she feels unfit, as a past Parisian “courtesan”, to become his wife, and therefore understands that the next, and only right course of action for her (Magda), is actually to simply, without drama, or fanfare, leave him (Ruggero).

Oh boy.

Sad as opera often is, without all the tragic death that often is found in opera, and ultimately, beautiful and elegant.

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Specifically, in Act 1, we discover in a chic Paris arrondissement, Magda, a “kept” woman, or a “courtesan”, (she is the mistress of wealthy man), who finds herself in the company of fun artists, entertaining them at her home, in her and her protector’s “salon” (living room), discussing joyfully, sentimental love.

Yay!

Her “protector”, Rambaldo gives Magda a pearl necklace, as a token of his “love”.

Oh boy.

One of the guests, Prunier, a poet, reads Magda’s palm, and predicts that she will go south, in pursuit of romance and happiness, just as the swallow bird, (in Italian, la rondine), does.

Awww.

Another guest, Ruggero, a newcomer to the city, wants to go out, and after some discussion (and fun suggestions), the group suggests he checks out, the vibrant “Bullier’s” dance hall.

Yay!

Magda then, decides as the guests have all left, to go to Bullier’s as well, yet in a simpler dress.

Oh boy.

Before leaving, Prunier the poet, flirts with Lisette, Magda’s maid, who decides on a whim, to go out with Prunier, and to increase her sex appeal, and look even more attractive, quickly “borrows” some of her “mistress”‘ clothes.

Oh boy.

In Act II, we discover at Bullier’s dance hall, a rowdy and diverse charming crowd of students, flower girls, artists, aristocrats and soldiers, all having a good time.

Yay!

Ruggero has just arrived there as well, and is sitting alone at a table, enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Yay!

Magda enters, and as a group of young students invite her to join them, she politely declines the invitation, and says she already has a date.

Oh boy.

Magda then, quickly joins Ruggero at his table, who does not recognize her.

Oh boy.

Magda apologizes to Ruggero for the intrusion (to get away from the group of students), and introduces herself, as Paulette.

Oh boy.

They start talking and dancing, and realize after a while, that they have, as if it were the most natural thing, fallen in love with each other.

Awww.

Prunier and Lisette then, show up, and Prunier, understanding immediately the situation (when he sees in the crowd, Ruggero and “Paulette” a.k.a “Magda”), is able to convince (smart as a whip) Lisette, that “Paulette” simply looks a lot like “Magda”.

Oh boy.

Rambaldo then, also shows up, and confronts “Paulette” / “Magda” about her presence at Bullier. Magda replies that she has finally found true love, and is leaving him (Rambaldo).

Oh boy.

By Act 3, Magda and Ruggero have been living in a hotel on the Riviera, but their money is running out.

Oh boy.

Ruggero tells Magda that he has written to his mother, to get her consent to their marriage.

Oh boy.

Magda realizes that Ruggero knows nothing of her past Parisian courtesan life, and feels terrible about lying to him.

Oh boy.

Prunier and Lisette then, show up at the hotel as well, and we realize that Lisette tried to “make it” as a singer, but with disastrous results.

Oh boy.

Magda offers to hire back Lisette, as her maid.

Yay!

Prunier also lets Magda know, that Rambaldo sends her a message, and is ready to welcome her back into his life.

Oh boy.

Prunier leaves, as Ruggero arrives, with a letter from his mother, delighted that her son has found a virtuous bride. Magda then, tells Ruggero, that she can keep on being a mistress to him, but never a wife, because of her past as a Parisian courtesan, and Magda leaves a brokenhearted Ruggero, realizing that he needs to be able to marry soon, a “suitable” bride.

Oh boy.

Sad of course, and of course, a story, in line with the conventions of its time, but not as tragic, as usual opera endings, fortunately.

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What to say of “La Rondine”‘s production?

That Nicolas Joël’s Art Deco production with “Tiffany like” and “Klimt” like sets by Ezio Frigerio, were drop dead gorgeous.

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In particular, the elegant gold, white and turquoise “salon” set, found in Act 1, the curvy designs on the balconies, found in Act 2, and the great hotel “nature covered” set, in Act 3, on the Côte d’Azur, in the South of France, were all, stunning.

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And the elegant (especially Magda’s first metallic looking dress), or/and summery costumes by Franca Squarciapino, to evoke the roaring 1920’s, were equally spectacular.

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I also especially liked the lively and rowdy Bullier, its funky and joyful dance hall atmosphere, enhanced by great and fun dancing (waltzes, tango and slow foxtrot), which were all, superbly performed by the singers, or professional dancers, and definitely gave the opera, fun pizzazz.

Yay!

The only thing I somewhat disliked, was the rest of staging, which often, came across as a little too static, and came to life better, in the presence of the 4 love birds, Magda and Ruggero, and the lively young poet Prunier and Lisette.

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What to say about the conductor and performers?

That the orchestra, and all the singers, under the expert baton of Italian conductor extraordinaire, the talented, Speranza Scappucci, were incredibly alive and energetic.

Wow and bravo!

And 4 stars, particularly stood out for me:

First, American soprano, Angel Blue, was wonderfully convincing as the beautiful and complex courtesan, Magda, the beautiful “Swallow” /”Rondine” love bird. What a beautiful color in her voice, and what wonderful understated charm she exhibits.

Bravo!

Second, Chilean tenor, Jonathan Tetelman, was equally convincing, for his Met debut, as the energetic, naïve and young, love stricken, Ruggero. And what great clarity in his voice.

Bravo!

Third, American soprano, Emily Pogorelc, for her Met debut was especially alive, and fun to watch perform, cheeky, in love and “smart as whip” Lisette, Magda’s maid. And what a stunning voice.

Bravo!

And finally, Uzbek tenor, Bekhzod Davronov, was super fun, as the charming, seductive, and full of mischief, poet Prunier, and what a beautiful voice as well.

Bravo!

So, to sum up my feelings, about Puccini’s “La Rondine”, admired last Tuesday March 26th, at the Met Opera, in great company: what a beautiful, lighthearted, elegant, sad, engaging, and modern opera, and how musically sumptuous. And how especially awesome are all 4 stars, Blue (as the Swallow/Rondine), Tetelman, Pogorelc and Davronov, as the 3 other “love birds”. And finally, what an elegant, stunning, and timeless Joël production, to illustrate love, in its various expressions.

Bravo!

Just terrific!

And not to be missed!

Until next time friends, after the Easter Break!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊