Giacomo Puccini’s opera La rondine, with a libretto by Giuseppe Adami, is a bittersweet tale of a Parisian courtesan, Magda. She is the metaphorical swallow of the story who experiences a fleeting brush with love and romance only to ultimately return to her familiar “nest” as the mistress of a wealthy banker. The opera was written in 1916 on commission from the Carltheater in Vienna, but premiered in Monte Carlo in 1917.
“La rondine is one of Puccini’s last operas – it is a skilfully composed work which holds a fine balance between the emotional drama characteristic of the composer, and a pure naivety. The composer tried to imitate the style of an operetta while writing it, while at the same time trying not to stray too far from his melody-writing talents,“ explains Jānis Liepiņš, the musical director and conductor of the concert performance. The outstanding Dinara Alieva, world-renowned soprano from the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, will take on the formidable and challenging part of the heroine.
The events take place in Paris and on the French Riviera during the mid-19th century.
An elegant salon in Magda’s house in Montmartre, Paris.
The fashionable poet Prunier is spending leisurely time with friends, musicians, the courtesans Yvette, Bianca and Suzy, and the lover of the wealthy banker Rambaldo Fernandez – the beautiful courtesan Magda.
Magda’s maid, Lisette is serving the guests. The poet Prunier is annoyed that Lisette is being so familiar because they are having a secret affair and he has promised to make her a famous actress.
Magda is reliving romantic memories of a passionate affair from long ago – in her youth she was madly in love with a student. It was like a beautiful dream, but now her girlfriends mock her about it. As she reminisces, she sings a song composed by Prunier but which he has not finished. She finishes the song herself and everyone, including Rambaldo, are delighted with her improvisation.
Magda is interested by something that Prunier said – that real love, faithfulness to one person, is in vogue again. The others receive this with sarcastic remarks. Prunier offers to read the ladies’ fortunes. It’s simple – everything is written on each of their palms.
Lisette tells Rambaldo, that there is a young man that has been waiting for him for a few hours. It is Ruggero, the son of one of Rambaldo’s childhood friends, who has arrived from the provinces. Magda is pleasantly surprised by the youth’s manners and shyness. Prunier notices this and, continuing his palm-reading, foresees that Magda, like a swallow, will fly towards her dreams for a while, but eventually, not having reached her goal, she will return to her old life.
Rambaldo asks the guests to give Ruggero suggestions for where to spend an evening out in Paris. Lisette suggests the fashionable nightspot Bullier. She is also planning to go there tonight with Prunier.
Ruggero, slightly bewildered by the raucous bunch, says his good-byes and leaves. Rambaldo and the other guests also depart. Beguiled by Ruggero, Magda decides to meet him already tonight at Bullier. She disguises herself and becomes almost unrecognisable. Lisette, whom Prunier is already impatiently waiting for, changes in to a hat and cape taken from her mistress Magda. To Bullier!
At Bullier, a bar.
The bar is full with the buzz of revelry. Ruggero sits by himself and observes the goings-on. Courtesans vie for the attention of young men. Magda arrives and is immediately surrounded by students, but she convinces them that she already has a seat at Ruggero’s table. Ruggero, surprised and puzzled, invites her to join him. The young man is attracted by her shyness and grace. They go to dance. During their conversation Magda doesn’t reveal her true name, instead calling herself Paulette. Both are overcome with feelings of love, which even the unexpected arrival of Lisette and Prunier cannot quell. It is also not in Rambaldo’s powers to quell when, as the friends have pulled Ruggero aside, Magda explains to Rambaldo that she is refusing his guardianship because she wishes to follow her new, true love. Overjoyed, the lovers leave the bar.
A villa on the French Riviera.
Magda and Ruggero, overcome with bliss, are staying at a quiet resort. They are happy. Ruggero has decided that Magda must become his bride. He has secretly written to his parents of his plan and has asked for their permission to marry. When she learns of this, Magda realises that she has gone too far, that she cannot hide from her past. Her conscience won’t allow her to set foot in Ruggero’s parent’s house. Magda decides to sacrifice her love and leave Ruggero. Prunier’s prophesy has come true.
Lisette and Prunier arrive after Lisette has had a disastrous debut on stage, and she wishes to work for Magda again as a maid.
Ruggero rushes in with a letter from his mother. Magda reads it and is deeply moved – Ruggero’s mother consents to the wedding. Yet Magda cannot accept the proposal. She reveals to Ruggero everything about her past and, parting with him for good she leaves behind her one true love and returns to Rambaldo.