Rondine, La (The Swallow)
  • Giacomo Puccini. Commedia lirica in three acts. 1917.
  • Libretto by Giuseppe Adami, after a German libretto by A.M. Willner and Heinz Reichert.
  • First performance at the Opéra de Monte Carlo, on 27th March 1917.
CHARACTERS

Magda de Civry, mistress of Rambaldo

soprano

Lisette, her maid

soprano

Ruggero Lastouc

tenor

Prunier, a poet

baritone or tenor

Rambaldo Fernandez, rich protector of Magda

baritone

Périchaud

bass-baritone

Gobin

tenor

Crébillon

bass-baritone

Yvette

soprano

Bianca

soprano

Suzy

mezzo-soprano

Butler

bass

Magda and her protector Rambaldo are entertaining their friends in a luxurious room of a Paris apartment. Prunier sings a song of Doretta, who dreams that one day the King favours her, but admits he cannot end the song. A young man has been waiting to see Rambaldo and now comes in. Magda recalls earlier years of happiness, particularly at the café Chez Bullier, where she once met a man she loved but whose name she never knew. It is here that the young man, Ruggero, is sent for the evening, while Lisette, the object of Prunier’s repeated complaints, now goes out with him, dressed in her mistress Magda’s clothes. At Chez Bullier Ruggero sits alone, among the crowd of dancers and young people. He is joined by Magda, now simply dressed, and then by Prunier and Lisette, the girls so different in appearance as not to be sure of each other’s identity. The arrival of Rambaldo, seeking some explanation of Magda’s presence, allows her to tell him that she has found love and will leave him. In the third act, set on the Côte d’Azur, Magda and Ruggero are together, although their money is running out. He has sought his family’s permission to marry her, but knows nothing of her life with Rambaldo. Prunier, who has failed to establish Lisette on the stage, now arranges that Magda take her back into service, while Magda herself makes it clear that she must part from Ruggero, who has received his mother’s blessing on his proposed marriage to a virtuous wife. Now she will go back to Rambaldo, who is willing to take her back again as his mistress.

Puccini’s opera was commissioned as an operetta for Vienna. The outbreak of war made further progress impossible and the work, with an Italian libretto, was first staged in neutral Monte Carlo. While not among the most frequently performed of Puccini’s operas, La rondine has provided sopranos with material in Magda’s reaction to Prunier’s story of Doretta, Chi il bel sogno di Doretta potè indovinar (Who could guess Doretta’s lovely dream), in which she ends the story as she imagines it, with the girl falling in love with a student. Slightly less well known is her story of flirtation at Chez Bullier, Ore dolci e divine (Tender, heavenly hours).