The Sunday Opera: Giacomo Puccini's "La Rondine" in a classic recording with Anna Moffo and Daniele Barrione
There’s a day that comes around each year that most of us would like to forget, but since this week’s Sunday Opera (5/7 3:00 p.m.) is on my day, I decided to play music that is a sort of self-renewing present in my life because of the happiness and feeling it generates for me. This week’s opera is one that is extremely important to me and is one that is filled with gloriously passionate music, and a second act duet that turns into a quartet that turns into a chorus that always overwhelms me.
Our opera is Giacomo Puccini’s wonderfully romantic “La Rondine” (“The Swallow”). Begun in 1913, it finally had its premier in 1917 in Monte Carlo. It began as an attempt by Puccini to write a Viennese operetta, but “La Rondine” is much, much more and is filled with some glorious melodies.
Magda (Anna Moffo) lives a life of beauty and excess as the companion to the wealthy Rambaldo (Mario Sereni). She reminisces, with the help of the poet Prunier (Piero De Palma), of her earlier, less complicated life when she found actual love at a café called Bullier’s.
Into her salon comes a young student named Ruggero (Daniele Barioni) whose father is a friend of Rambaldo. It’s his first time in Paris, and he asks where he should go for the evening. He’s directed to Bullier’s by Lisette, Magda’s maid (Graziella Scuitti), and that sets in motion a chance for Magda to find love once more that will unfortunately end in heartache for her and Ruggero.
All of the talk of Bullier’s makes Magda decide to dress as an innocent young woman once more and return to Bullier’s herself where she meets Ruggero, and by the end of the evening, Magda (as her assumed name Pauletta) and Ruggero are hopelessly in love.
They run away to the Mediterranean in the south of France where they spend an idyllic few months, but Magda realizes that it can’t last because, even though Ruggero wants to marry her, she knows that her past would ruin his family’s reputation.
With a heavy heart, she leaves (in two of Puccini’s three or more versions of the opera) and returns to Rambaldo and her life of empty pleasure. Other members of this stellar 1966 cast include Mario Basiola, Jr., Robert El Hage, Sylvia Brigham-Dimiziani, Virginia De Nostaristefani, and Franca Mattiucci. Francesco Molinari-Pradelli conducts the RCA Italian Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
The additional music after the opera is not by Puccini. I decided to fill my time with you with more pieces that have special meaning and special places in my heart as well as one or two that I just really like as my gift to me (and you, of course).
We’ll have works by Brahms, Gershwin, Addinsell, Prokofiev, Mendelsohn, and probably more.
I can promise you an afternoon of wonderfully varied and beautifully performed music from a variety of sources, so I’ll hope you’ll join me as I throw my own musical party.