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Giacomo Puccini

The Swallow

Opera op Straat 26 april 2016; La Rondine, Bredewegfestival Amsterdam Watergraafsemeer

La rondine (The Swallow) is a comic opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami, based on a libretto by Alfred Maria Willner and Heinz Reichert (de). It was first performed at the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo (or the Théâtre du Casino) in Monte Carlo on 27 March 1917.

In autumn 1913, the directors of Vienna's Carltheater commissioned Puccini to compose a Viennese operetta. After confirming that it could take the form of a comic opera with no spoken dialogue in the style of Der Rosenkavalier, "only more entertaining and more organic," he agreed. The work proceeded for two years, sometimes intensely, sometimes with great difficulty, and in spring 1916 the opera was finished. The originally intended Viennese première was impeded by the outbreak of World War I and the entrance of Italy in the Alliance against Austria-Hungary, hence the Opéra de Monte-Carlo was chosen as the location to present it, with Gilda dalla Rizza and Tito Schipa in the leading roles. A feature of the music is Puccini's use of modern dance rhythms, such as the tango, to denote the various characters.

In Italy, Puccini offered the work to his editor Tito Ricordi, who declined to buy it, dismissing it as "Bad Lehár"; thus Ricordi's rival, Lorenzo Sonzogno (it), obtained the right to give the first performance outside Austria-Hungary and moved the premiere to Monégasque neutral territory. At the premiere in Monte Carlo in 1917 the initial reception by the public and press was warm. However, despite the artistic value of the score, La rondine has been one of Puccini's less successful works; "In box office terms, [it] was the poor cousin to the other great hits." There is no established final version of it, Puccini being dissatisfied, as often, with the result of his work; he revised it many times to the point of making three versions (1917, 1920, 1921), with two completely different endings, but died before clearly deciding on a final version.



(The Swallow)

Opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini
to an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami,
based on a libretto by Alfred Maria Willner and Heinz Reicher


Magda de Civry
Lisette, her maid
Ruggero Lastouc
a poet 
Rambaldo Fernandez, Magda's protector
A butler
A voice  
Members of the bourgeoisie, students,
painters, elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen,
grisettes, flower girls and dancing girls, waiters


Time: Mid-19th century.

Place: Paris and the French Riviera.
Premiere cast, 27 March 1917


Magda de Civry:

Soprano. In her Paris salon Magda, mistress of Rambaldo, is entertaining guests including the poet Prunier. Despite all her lover's gifts and pleas, she will not marry him, and explains how once, when she was young and innocent, she had danced at Bullier's nightclub with a young man whose name she did not know. But she had gazed into his eyes and known that this was the sort of love she must find before agreeing to marriage. A young man, Ruggero, son of an old friend of Rambaldo, arrives to see him. As it is Ruggero's first night in Paris, it is decided he should go to Bullier's nightclub. When all her guests have left, Magda decides to go there too, but in disguise. She meets and dances with Ruggero and the two fall in love. She tells Rambaldo that she will not go home with him now or ever and she and Ruggero leave together and settle in a cottage in Nice. They are very happy together, but Magda worries about Ruggero's reaction when he learns about her past life when she sold herself for money. He tells her he has written to his parents asking permission to marry her and is sure they will welcome her as a daughter, but Magda knows differently. Her maid Lisette, having failed in her attempts to make a career on the stage, asks for her job back. Magda tells Ruggero that she has been living a lie and can never marry him. Heartbroken, she leaves the only man she has ever truly loved, and with Lisette she returns to her former existence in Paris. Aria: Forse come la rondine (‘Perhaps, like a swallow’); duets (with Prunier): Chi il bel sogno di Doretta poté indovinar? (‘Who can interpret Doretta's beautiful dream?); (with Ruggero): Ma come puoi lasciarmi? (‘But how can you leave me?’). Created (1917) by Gilda Dalla Rizza.



Soprano. Maid of Magda de Civry. She and the poet Prunier decide to live together. He unsuccessfully attempts to help her make a career on the stage. She returns to her post as Magda's maid. Created (1917) by Ines Maria Ferraris.

Ruggero Lastouc:


Tenor. Son of an old friend of Magda's lover Rambaldo. Ruggero calls at Magda's salon and tells her and her guests that this is his first night in Paris. Her maid Lisette suggests he should go to Bullier's nightclub and they all take their leave of their hostess. After they have gone, Magda sets off for the nightclub in disguise. There she meets and dances with Ruggero and they fall in love, to the distress of Rambaldo. They decide to live together in Nice. Ruggero writes and tells his family of his happiness, but Magda knows that when they learn of her past life they will not welcome her into their family and she tells Ruggero that she can never marry him and must leave him. Duet (with Magda): Ma come puoi lasciarmi (‘But how can you leave me’). Created (1917) by Tito Schipa.



Tenor. (originally baritone). A poet, friend of Magda de Civry. He reads Magda's hand and tells her that she may, like the swallow (la rondine) find a bright future, but there is also tragedy in store. Prunier is secretly in love with Magda's maid Lisette. He promises to help her make a career as a singer and she leaves to live with him, but the stage episode ends in disaster and he persuades Magda to take her back. Duet (with Magda): Chi il bel sogno di Doretta poté indovinar? (‘Who can interpret Doretta's beautiful dream?). Created (1917) by Francesco Dominici.

Rambaldo Fernandez:


Baritone. A rich Parisian banker, in love with Magda de Civry. He showers her with jewellery but Magda makes it clear to him that she is looking for true love such as she once experienced when younger. While he is at Magda's salon, he is visited by the son of an old friend—his name is Ruggero. It soon becomes clear to Rambaldo that Magda has fallen in love with Ruggero. Although he lets it be known that he is willing to take her back, Magda is not interested. Created (1917) by Gustave Huberdeau.



Magda's salon, Paris

At a cocktail party hosted by the courtesan Magda, the poet Prunier expounds his theories on love. Magda's friends Yvette, Bianca and Suzy playfully mock him, while Lisette, Magda's maid, tells him he does not know what he is talking about. Prunier takes offence and Magda orders Lisette to leave. Prunier maintains that no one is immune to romantic love and sings the first verse of his latest song about Doretta, who rejected a king as her suitor because of the value she placed on true love. He does not know how to finish the song, so Magda takes over and provides the second verse: she recounts how Doretta falls in love with a student (Aria: Chi il bel sogno di Doretta). Magda's guests are charmed by her performance and her long-term protector Rambaldo gives her a pearl necklace. Lisette enters to announce the arrival of a young man – the son of an old school friend of Rambaldo. Lisette is ordered by Rambaldo to bring in the guest. Suddenly nostalgic, Magda recalls her life as a young working girl and happy evenings spent dancing at Bullier's, where she first experienced love (Aria: Ore dolci e divine). Some of the guests suggest that Prunier should compose a song based on Magda's story but he declares a preference for songs about perverse heroines, such as Berenice or Salome. Prunier demonstrates his skills at palmistry to some of the girls, while Lisette brings in the visitor, Ruggero. He has an introduction from his father for Rambaldo. Prunier reads Magda's palm and tells her that she is like a swallow: she longs for migration towards the sun and true love. Ruggero explains that it is his first visit to Paris and asks where he may find the best place to spend an evening: after much discussion, Lisette recommends Bullier's. Ruggero leaves. Magda chides the other guests for mocking him. After they too have gone, she tells Lisette that she will remain at home that evening. Then, on a whim, she determines to disguise herself and go to Bullier's as well. She goes to get changed. Prunier returns in secret to escort Lisette to Bullier's and flirts extravagantly with her. Lisette is wearing Magda's hat and Prunier tells her that he dislikes it and orders her to take it off. They then set out together. Magda re-enters, disguised as a working girl. She sings a fragment of Prunier's song about Doretta as she leaves, happily anticipating an adventure.

Giacomo Puccini - La Rondine (Part I)

Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa
Chór, Balet i Soliści Teatru Wielkiego w Warszawie

Magda - Bożena Harasimowicz
Lisette - Katarzyna Trylnik
Ruggero - Valter Borin
Prunier - Tomasz Krzysica
Rambaldo - Zbigniew Macias
Perichaud - Czesław Gałka
Crebillon - Mieczysław Milun
Yvette - Jeanette Bożałek
Bianca - Anna Karasińska
Suzy - Magdalena Idzik

Dyrygent: Jacek Kaspszyk
Reżyseria: Marta Domingo
Scenografia: Michael Scott
Przygotowanie chóru: Bogdan Gola
Choreografia: Elwira Piorun


Bullier's, Paris

The bar is packed with students, artists and flower girls, singing and dancing. Magda enters and attracts the attention of several young men. She hurries over to a table at which Ruggero is sitting alone. She apologizes for intruding and tells him that she will move away as soon as the young men at the bar stop watching her. Ruggero, who does not recognize Magda in her disguise, asks her to stay. They chat and Ruggero tells Magda that she reminds him of the quiet and elegant girls from his home town, Montauban. They dance happily together. Prunier and Lisette enter, arguing about Prunier's desire to turn Lisette into a lady and to educate her. Magda and Ruggero return to their table and Magda begins to reminisce about a past love affair. Ruggero asks for her name and she answers 'Pauletta'. She writes the name on the tablecloth and Ruggero adds his own beneath. The attraction between Magda and Ruggero grows as they talk. Lisette and Prunier pass their table and Lisette recognizes Magda. Magda signals to Prunier not to give away her secret and Prunier tells Lisette she is mistaken. To prove his point, he introduces Lisette to Magda, who tries to maintain her disguise, to the puzzlement of Lisette. The two couples sit together and drink a toast to love. Prunier notices that Rambaldo has come in, and orders Lisette to take Ruggero out of the room for a few minutes, which she does. Rambaldo demands an explanation from Magda for her behaviour and disguise; she tells him that she has nothing to add to what he has already seen. Rambaldo suggests they leave together but she refuses and declares her love for Ruggero, apologizing for any pain she is causing Rambaldo by her actions. Rambaldo tells her that he cannot prevent her staying with Ruggero. As he leaves, Ruggero returns, and tells Magda that dawn is breaking. They decide to begin a new life together, but Magda secretly worries that she is deceiving Ruggero.

Giacomo Puccini - La Rondine (Part II)


The French Riviera

Magda and Ruggero have been living together on the French Riviera for some months. They talk about their first meeting and happiness together, living quietly by the sea. Ruggero tells Magda that he has written to his mother to ask for money to pay their growing debts and for her consent to his marriage to Magda. Ruggero imagines their happy married life and the child they may have (Aria: Dimmi che vuoi seguirmi). Magda is deeply touched, but also uneasy: she knows that her past life as a courtesan would make her unacceptable to Ruggero's family, and possibly to Ruggero if he knew who she really was. As Ruggero leaves to post his letter she meditates on her dilemma, torn between her desire to tell Ruggero everything, her wish not to hurt him and her fear of losing his love. Prunier and Lisette arrive. Lisette has had a brief and disastrous career as a music-hall singer: her performance in Nice the previous evening was a catastrophe. She and Prunier bicker with each other while waiting for Magda. When Magda appears, Lisette begs for her job back, and Magda consents. Prunier expresses surprise that Magda can be happy away from Paris, and delivers a message to Magda from Rambaldo: he is happy to take her back on any terms. Magda refuses to listen. Prunier takes his leave of Lisette (first arranging a rendezvous with her for that evening) and Lisette resumes her duties as Magda's maid. Ruggero returns with a letter from his mother, in which she says that if Ruggero's fiancée has all the virtues he has described to her, he will have a blissful marriage. She looks forward to welcoming the couple to her home and sends Magda a kiss. Magda is unable to keep her secret any longer. She tells Ruggero about her past and declares that she can never be his wife – she would cause his parents too much grief. Ruggero implores Magda not to abandon him (Ma come puoi lasciarmi), but Magda is adamant that they cannot remain together, and that Ruggero must return home. Like a swallow, she flies back to Rambaldo and her old life, leaving Ruggero behind, devastated.

Giacomo Puccini - La Rondine (Part III)

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