PUCCINI: La Rondine — La Scala 1994

Music composed by Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Giuseppe Adami after a
libretto by A. M. Willner and Heinz Reichert.

First Performance: 27 March 1917, Monte Carlo, ThȂtre
de l’OpÈra.

Principal Roles:
Magda de Civry Soprano
Lisette Soprano
Ruggero Lastouc Tenor
Prunier Tenor
Rambaldo Fernandez Baritone
Perichaud Baritone
Gobin Tenor
Crebillon Bass
Yvette Soprano
Bianca Soprano
Suzy Mezzo-Soprano

Setting: Paris, mid-19th century.


Act I

Magda’s Parisian salon

Rambaldo Fernandez, a rich banker, is entertaining friends in the salon of
his mistress, Magda. The center of attention, however, is the poet Prunier
who entertains the crowd of young men and women with his gossip. “Love
reigns again in Paris,” declares Prunier. Lisette, Magda’s maid, scoffs
at Prunier’s thoughts of sentimental love, “We live in a hurry: ‘Do you
want me?’ ‘I want you.’ That’s all!” Lisette gets on with her work
as Prunier continues his discussion of love with Magda, Yvette, Suzy and
Bianca. “Romance is all the rage, love-lorn glances, furtive hand-holding,
kisses, sighs – but nothing more!” “Does the latest fad interest you?”
asks Prunier. Magda is noncommital. Prunier calls the ‘latest fad’ a
malady, an epidemic of madness, affecting the feminine population. “It
takes you by surprise.” “No one is immune?” ask the ladies. “No
one,” answers Prunier, “not even Doretta.” The ladies have never heard
of ‘Doretta,’ who is Prunier’s latest heroine – a charming child struck
down by this disease of romanticism. He has immortalized her in a song.
Hearing that Prunier has composed a new song, the ladies clamour to hear it.
He is reluctant but Magda insists. Calling the entire company to attention,
Magda ushers Prunier to the piano. Upon hearing that the theme of this new
song is ‘Love,’ Rambaldo comments, “That theme is hackneyed!” but
Magda persists that they shall hear the song.

Prunier, playing the piano, introduces his song (Chi il bel sogno di
Doretta). He tells the tale of a young woman who has a dream in which a king
asks a maid to trust him, promising her all his riches. He begs her not to
tremble, not to cry but she does not weep, she chooses to remain as she is,
for no gold can purchase happiness. Prunier ceases playing. “Why don’t
you go on?” asks Magda who had been enjoying the song, “There is no
ending,” he says. “That is easy,” Magda joins him at the piano, “The
challenge tempts me.” She takes up his song with words of her own (Chi il
bel sogno di Doretta). Her ending is simple: one day a young student kisses
Doretta so passionately that now she knows what passion is. Magda is so taken
with her theme that the assembled crowd is quite moved. Prunier is impressed
and all her friends express their appreciation of her poetry. Even Rambaldo,
the practical man, is moved. Prunier thinks this proves his point: in every
man’s breast lurks the romantic. Rambaldo is not pleased with this remark,
declaring himself armed with holy water against this devil and presents to
Magda a beautiful pearl necklace. She is surprised and tells him that love
and happiness cannot be bought, however, she accepts the gift, causing
Prunier to comment that his Doretta would never have done so.

Lisette comes in announcing the arrival of a young man, the son of one of
Rambaldo’s childhood friends, who had called earlier but had not been
admitted. Prunier remarks to Magda that she should get rid of such a maid but
Magda says that Lisette brings a little sunshine into her life. This
surprises Magda’s friends, who all comment that she has an enviable life,
especially with one so generous as Rambaldo. “What’s the use of a
fortune?” says Magda. She asks her friends if they have never dreamed of
being a grisette? Magda mentions a time when she ran away from her old aunt,
“PuÚ darsi! Ma che non si dimenticano pi˘!” and spent a few hours among
students and midinettes at Bullier’s, a Paris nightspot. She recalls the
singing: “Young woman, love is in bloom! Defend your heart! Kisses and the
magic of smiles is paid for with tears.” She tells the story how a young
man asked her name and she inscribed it on the marble tabletop. He wrote his
next to hers. “There, among all the commotion, we looked deep into each
other’s eyes, not saying a word.” If only she could relive those moments,
thinks Magda. Prunier and the women put down Magda’s adventure to the old
aunt, who must have been waiting, all alone at home, as the cause of
Magda’s desire to escape – if even for so short a time. Prunier purposely
mishears what the ladies have been saying, thinking they are describing the
old aunt, and not the young lover, as having brown mustaches and drinking
beer. “Not my type!” he says. “The woman who conquers me must
correspond to my artistic taste. She must be refined and elegant. In short,
worthy of me.” She must be a Galetea, a Berenice, a Francesca, a Salome, he
says. The ladies laugh. Magda wants to know how he can tell whether the women
he meets have the qualities he wants. “The destiny of every woman is marked
in the palm of her hand,” answers Prunier. The ladies are intrigued and
demand that Prunier read their palms. The group moves to a quiet corner.

Meanwhile, Ruggero Lastouc has returned and is finally shown in. He hands
Rambaldo a letter of introduction from his father. Prunier announces a
portentous future for Magda as he looks at her palm. Perhaps, like a swallow,
she is destined to fly across the seas, he says, toward a sun-filled land of
dreams, toward the sun, toward love. He hesitates. She worries that he sees
an ill omen. “No, but destiny presents two faces, is it a smile or is it
anguish? No one knows.” Rambaldo asks Ruggero if this is the first time he
has come to Paris which, indeed, it is. Rambaldo interrupts Prunier’s
palm-reading to ask if he knows of a place where young Ruggero would have a
good time on his first evening in Paris. Prunier scoffs, saying the magic of
a first evening in Paris is a myth. The assembled company toss out names of
nightspots but it is Lisette’s suggestion, Bullier’s, which is taken up
as the favorite. Yes, Ruggero must go to Bullier’s! “Love, joy and
pleasure are there,” says Lisette. Magda seems transported back to her
thoughts of the mysterious student she met years ago at Bullier’s. Ruggero
leaves. Prunier comments that Ruggero possessed the perfumed flower of youth.
“The air simple reeks with the smell of his lavender!” Rambaldo takes his
leave too, followed by PÈrichaud, Bianca, Yvette, Gobin, then CrÈbillon,
Prunier and Suzy. Magda is alone.

When Lisette returns from showing the guests out, Magda orders a carriage.
Her only thoughts are of Prunier’s words: “Like a swallow I will migrate
across the seas toward a sun-filled land of dreams.” She thinks of
Bullier’s and goes into her boudoir. With Magda gone, Prunier re-enters. He
has come to get Lisette, with whom he is having an affair (T’amo!).
Declaring his love, he also tells Lisette that she is not worthy of a poet
like him, “Only rich women can be loved by the likes of me, but instead I
am yours!” As they are about to leave, Prunier takes a dislike to her hat.
“It’s my lady’s finest,” replies the maid but Prunier insists that
she change it, as it does not match the rest of her outfit. Alone, Prunier
muses on his situation (Nove Muse, a voi perdono), asking the muses to pardon
him for his actions. He loves her and cannot reason. Lisette returns with a
new hat but this time Prunier asks her to change her coat for the black silk
cloak she had on the night before. Again, he muses on his situation. “But I
cannot abandon her, no matter how aesthetic I am.”

Magda comes out of her boudoir dressed as a grisette. Thinking of
Prunier’s Doretta and knowing no one will recognize her, she departs for

Act II

At Bullier’s

Crowds of people are enjoying themselves at Bullier’s (Fiori freschi!).
Women sell flowers, couples dance, students drink and pick up girls, lovers
are kissing. The champagne is flowing, as a group of grisettes discuss men
and love. A group of students notice a hesitant figure approaching. It is
Magda. They cluster around, prompting her to agree that she already has a
date. They see her look at Ruggero as he enters the restaurant. Assuming the
young man is whom she was waiting for, they bring her to him. Magda begs his
pardon for her intrusion (Scusatemi, scusate) and Ruggero asks her not to
leave. He tells her that she seems different from the other girls here. She
sits down. She reminds him of the girls from Montauban, who are all smiles
and youth when they dance to an old song. When she seems to not fully
understand his comment, he tells her that the girls of Montauban are very
beautiful but simple and modest. “Unlike the girls here, in Paris, they
need only a simple flower in their hair as adornment.” When Magda wishes
she could dance like the girls of Montauban, Ruggero asks her if she would
like to dance with him and the two join the crowd of dancers, lost in a dream
of intoxicating love (Nella dolce carezza della danza).

Prunier and Lisette enter and join in the dancing while Magda and Ruggero
return to their table. She says that she is thirsty and Ruggero orders them
two bocks. “Quickly, Quickly,” cries Magda, “could I ask a favor? When
the waiter returns, could you pay him 20 sous and tell him to keep the
change?” Ruggero does not understand the request, but acquiesces. Ruggero
proposes a toast: to your health. Magda proposes her own: to your loves!
“Don’t say that,” replies Ruggero, “If I were to love, then it would
be only one, and for as long as I live.” “For as long as I live,”
repeats Magda. Ruggero comments that he does not even know his new friend’s
name. As she had done years ago, she scribbles a name – Paulette – on the
tabletop. Ruggero, in turn, writes his next to hers. “Now something of ours
will remain,” says Magda but Ruggero answers, “No, they will wipe it
away, but the thought of you will remain with me.” Magda tells him that
fortune has brought her to him. Ruggero confesses that he knows nothing of
her but does not feel that she is a stranger (Io non so chi siate voi).
“You are the creature my heart has been waiting for!” Magda is overcome.
They kiss.

Lisette cries out “Look, it’s my mistress!” pointing to Magda.
Knowing full-well that it is her indeed, Prunier tells Lisette that the wine
has gone to her head, but as she insists that this woman and her mistress are
one and the same, Prunier asks if she wants proof. They walk toward the
table. Lisette now recognizes Ruggero. Prunier introduces himself and Lisette
to Ruggero, telling her that this is the young man from earlier in the
evening but that the young lady is certainly not her mistress. “You are
drunk!” Prunier asks Ruggero to introduce his young lady to them. “My
friend, Paulette.” “Are you convinced?” asks Prunier of Lisette, as he
introduces himself to ‘Paulette.’ Lisette tells Ruggero that her mistress
is exactly like this girl, were she elegantly dressed. Magda laughs,
commenting that Lisette seems to be elegantly dressed herself. “It
doesn’t cost much,” replies Lisette, “everything belongs to my
mistress.” “That is very imprudent!” says Magda. Prunier
self-consciously laughs out loud and Magda takes the opportunity to ask if
this woman, her maid, is his Salome or his Berenice? “Perhaps Lisette can
chose to imitate the one or the other,” she slyly remarks. Ruggero offers a
toast: “Let us drink to love!” The two couples drink, then Ruggero toasts
Magda. “I drink to your fresh smile. I drink to your profound desires and
to your lips, which have uttered my name.” (Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso). To
Magda, this evening is the fulfillment of her dream. Lisette and Prunier
exchange words of love for each other while Ruggero and Magda swear to stay
together forever.

Suddenly, Prunier catches sight of Rambaldo. Magda begs Ruggero to leave,
but Prunier has a plan. As Rambaldo heads toward the table, Prunier tells
Magda to go, to leave him to explain but she would not do so. Prunier asks
her to think about what she is doing. “When you love, you don’t think,”
replies Magda. Rambaldo asks to speak alone with Magda. He has brought along
her necklace which she so casually left lying around her salon. “What’s
the meaning of this?” he demands. “I have nothing to add to what you’ve
already seen,” she replies. Rambaldo, in a more conciliatory tone, tells
her it was nothing serious and asks her to leave with him. “I’m staying,
I love him, let me follow my destiny, leave me, it’s over.” Rambaldo,
telling her he hopes she never regrets this, departs. Ruggero returns to the
table, “And now it is morning. Where shall we go?” He notices that Magda
is upset.


A seaside hotel garden on Cote d’Azur

Ruggero and Magda are enjoying a quiet moment in their seaside garden.
Magda comments on the heavenly scent of the flowers, “Tell me again that I
still please you.” “Everything about you, my love, pleases me.” Magda
hopes that the solitude is not too much for him, but he tells her that he is
not alone. Magda speaks of their love being born among the flowers – the
flowers at Bullier’s. Ruggero tells her she deserves something special
today. He will tell her a secret: he has written to his parents asking them
for money and for consent to their marriage. “You did that?” asks Magda,
“I didn’t know, I didn’t expect it.” She asks Ruggero to tell her
everything. “If I love you and you love me, then let it be forever! You are
not just a lover, Magda, you are love itself” (E laggi˘ non sapevo). He
asks that she accompany him to his home, kisses her, then leaves. Magda is in
a quandary – should she tell him all about her past or keep quiet?

Lisette and Prunier enter, unsure that they have the right place. Lisette
berates Prunier for ruining her. He had wanted to make her a singer but
failed. Prunier has promised, if at all possible, to bring her back to her
old life. Lisette is extremely nervous, totally overwrought, due to her stage
experiences. “All my illusions are gone,” she tells him. As they quarrel,
Magda enters. She is touched that they remember their old Parisian friend.
Prunier, ever the cynic, asks if she is still happy. “Entirely.” He tells
her that all Paris still talks about what happened, adding that few believe
it. Magda asks why. “Because this isn’t the life for you.” Magda is
extremely hurt by his comments. She quickly changes the subject, asking why
they have come. Prunier explains that the theatre in Nice decided the
previous night that Lisette was not to its liking. “She wants to return to
you as a maid.” Magda is pleased to have her back and soon learns that
Prunier is only acting on behalf of someone, presumably Rambaldo, who has
heard of her financial plight and is ready to help. Prunier acts as if he is
taking his leave of both Magda and Lisette forever, but quickly, with
Magda’s permission, asks Lisette what time she gets off from work that
evening. He will be waiting.

Ruggero has received a letter from his mother. He notices Magda’s
changed attitude, “Did you think she wouldn’t consent?” He presses the
letter into her hands. Magda reads the letter in which his mother writes
“May the Lord bless the sweet creature whom He sent to you. She will be the
mother of your children. It is motherhood which sanctifies love. If you know
she is good, mild, pure and possesses all the virtues, then she is
blessed.” His mother asks Ruggero to embrace his future wife for her; she
is anxious for their return. “Here is my mother’s kiss” but Magda
confesses that she cannot receive it. “I cannot erase my past, I cannot
enter your house.” Ruggero is not interested in her past, “You are mine,
that is all.” Magda tells him she lived among shame and gold, as Ruggero
begs her not to continue. “I can be a lover, but never a wife.” Ruggero
cannot live without her, she is destroying his life but she persists
“Because I love you, I will not be your ruin.” Ruggero begs her to stay.
“Say nothing more, let this pain be mine,” says Magda, as she leaves the
side of the crying Ruggero.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here
for the complete libretto

image_description=Poster of Bal Bullier (1899) by Georges Meunier (1869-1942)
first_audio_name=Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924): La Rondine
product_title=G. Puccini: La Rondine
product_by=Magda de Civry (Denia Mazzola-Gavazzeni); Ruggero Lastouc (Pietro Ballo); Ramblado Fernandez (Antonio Salvadori); Lisette (Adelina Scarabelli); Prunier (Paolo Barbacini); Yvette (Anna Catarci); Bianca (Elisabetta Battaglia);Suzy (Claudine Nicole Bandera); Perichaud (Silvestro Sammaritano); Gobin (Roberto Donelli); Crebillon (Tino Nava); Georgette (Anna Zoroberto); Gabriella (Mimi Park); Lolette (Elisabetta Tandura); Rabonier (Aldo Bramante); Maggiordomo (Ernesto Panariello). Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala. Gianandrea Gavazzeni, conductor. Live performance: February 1994, Teatro alla Scala, Milan.