IU Opera Theater presents Puccini's 'La Rondine'
A young Parisian is lavishly maintained as a mistress of a rich older banker. Modern, yet vulnerable, she harbors fantasies of romantic love and falls for the son of a respectable family from southern France. Will love triumph over financial power?
Set in 19th-century France, Giacomo Puccini's opera La Rondine opens the way to a powerful exploration of one of high society's stories. Written with Italian playwright Giuseppe Adami and premiered in 1917, Indiana University Opera Theater's forthcoming new production opens on Feb. 26 at 8 p.m., with additional performances on Feb. 27 and March 5, 6 at the Musical Arts Center in Bloomington.
New sets have been conceived by guest designer Bill Forrester and new costume designs are from Linda Pisano, head of IU's Costume Design Program. La Rondine is directed by Jacobs School of Music Professor Vincent Liotta and will be conducted by Jacobs Professor David Effron.
Liotta, a faculty member since 1995, said La Rondine is a blend of drawing-room comedy and turn-of-the-century romance.
"For me, it's a play about trying to recapture missed opportunities or lost youth and the realization that you can never go back," he said. "No matter how much it seems that you have, something will always pull you back to the present and reality."
Liotta said the opera offers a rare glimpse into Puccini's lesser known musical work.
The play is well written, he said, and enhanced by the beauty and power of music -- a bittersweet romance that anyone who has ever thought about a "love that might have been" will understand.
First performed at the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo, La Rondine, which translates to "the swallow" in English, was one of Puccini's final projects. Between 1884 and 1926, he wrote music for 13 operas and received widespread acclaim across Europe and the United States.
The three-act opera, his eighth during that period, is designed to provoke laughter despite an ill-fated romance at the center of its plotline.
Enter mid 19th-century Paris: Magda, mistress to wealthy Rambaldo, lives luxuriously as a diamond-adorned socialite. The only thing she lacks is true love.
When passionate poet Prunier declares love is the city's "latest fad" behind a piano in her parlor, Magda senses a void in her life. She remembers a brief romantic encounter in her youth and sneaks out later that night to recreate it.
Dressed in low-class apparel to disguise her identity, Magda arrives at a fashionable Parisian night club where she meets Ruggero. Instant chemistry ignites, and the pair declares passionate feelings for each other after twirling around the dance floor.
But in the end, despite Ruggero's tender marriage proposal and fervent tears, Magda flies back to Rombardo and her true identity as a "kept woman" -- like a swallow.
IU Opera and Ballet Theater Executive Administrator Maria Levy said the opera, performed by singers selected from the Jacobs' School student body, has a moral that remains relevant today.
"You have to accept responsibility for who you are and the choices you have made," she said. "The whole notion of a 'kept woman' not being able to join respectable society is a little passé in our world, but the core idea of accepting responsibility is still valid."
Levy said the Indiana University Opera Theater version of the opera came together after two months of individual coaching sessions and four weeks of rehearsals. Sopranos, tenors and baritones will be ready for the spotlight opening night.
"It's really a sophisticated work with glorious music," she said.
La Rondine will be sung in Italian with English supertitles.
For more information about the Jacobs School of Music and IU Opera and Ballet Theater, see https://www.music.indiana.edu/operaballet.
If You Go
La Rondine (The Swallow) by Giacomo Puccini with dialogue by Giuseppe Adami opens Feb. 26 with additional shows Feb. 27 and March 5-6, all at 8 p.m. The performances will take place at The Musical Arts Center, 101 N. Jordan Ave., just north of the intersection at Third Street. Tickets for the Feb. 26 performance, which is general admission, are $25 ($12 for full-time students of any age with valid ID). Tickets for all other performances are $15-$35 ($10-$20 for students). The Musical Arts Center box office hours are Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Get ticket information online at https://music.indiana.edu/opera, or call the Musical Arts Center at 812-855-7433. Note: Second Friday Special for all Students, $5 off any price. Offer not valid on previously bought tickets.
This story was originally published Feb. 17, 2010.