Opera Profile: Puccini’s Lesser-Known ‘La Rondine’

By David Salazar

Of Puccini’s operas, “La Rondine” is among the least-known, despite its own melodic invention.

The work had its world premiere in Monte Carlo on March 27, 1917, with a cast that included soprano Gilda dalla Rizza and tenor Tito Schipa. The opera has never had an easy time, often seen as “lesser” Puccini; his editor Tito Ricordi dismissed it as “Bad Léhar.” Puccini made subsequent revisions to the work, the premiere coming in 1920 in Palermo. Another came thereafter, and that one was first heard in 1994.

Short Plot Summary

At a party, Magda and Prunier compose a song about Doretta and Magda receives a necklace from her long-term protector Rambaldo. Ruggero, a young man who is in Paris for the first time in his life, appears and asks where he should go. They recommend Bullier’s. Everyone heads for Bullier’s, including Magda, who disguises herself as a working girl.

At Bullier’s, Magda attracts the attention of many young men. Spotting Ruggero all alone, she sits with him and promises to leave once the young men stop bothering. They spend time together and their attraction grows throughout the evening. Despite an intrusion from Rambaldo (Ruggero is taken out of the room by Magda’s maid Lisette, who is there with Prunier), Magda declares her love for Ruggero. Magda and Ruggero run off together, deciding to start a new life together.

Ruggero and Magda have lived together for several months. Ruggero wants to marry her and writes a letter to his family. He leaves to send it. Meanwhile, Lisette and Prunier arrive to tell Magda that Rambaldo is willing to take her back under any terms.

Ruggero returns to tell Magda that his mother has approved, assuming that Magda’s past is without concerns. She reveals her true identity to him and despite his desire to remain with her, she leaves him. In the third version of the opera, Ruggero discovers the truth and leaves her.

Watch and Listen

Here is a recording starring Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna.

And here is a live performance.


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