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Ohio State Opera Presents Puccini's Rarely Performed 'La Rondine'

Poster for the Italian premiere of La Rondine, in part

The Ohio State University Opera and Lyric Theatre presents Giacomo Puccini's s La Rondine "The Swallow" in Mershon Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 31 and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 2. Mark Lane Swanson conducts. The production is staged by Opera and Lyric Theatre director A. Scott Parry.

Parry's past productions of Sweeney Todd, The Rape of Lucretia and La Tragédie de Carmen have been winners. I expect no less from his take on Puccini's under-performed Rondine (RON-dee-nay). Opera lovers and their friends will have a rare opportunity to hear a neglected opera, overflowing with melody.

Puccini neglected? You gotta be kidding. Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) is the composer of La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. Who doesn't love Madame Butterfly? La bohème is officially the most performed opera in the repertoire. Neglected, nothing.

And yet La Rondine flies under the radar. The story owes something to La traviata. A lovely woman in Paris, dating a wealthy man, finds love with a nice—if dim—boy from a good family. She knows she can never be accepted by nice boy's family. So she sends him away and goes back to the older, rich boyfriend. Nobody dies.

There are two gorgeous arias for the heroine, Magda, including the magnificent "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta":

The audience will have a good cry and bask in the gorgeous music, and Magda and all the other characters live to love another day. 

Poster for the Italian premiere of La Rondine

La Rondine ​was Puccini's attmept to write a Viennese operetta—in Italain no less. World War I intervened, making a Viennese premiere dicey. While Puccini had made peace with the Fascisti, it made no sense to alienate England, France and the U.S., sources of most of his royalties. 

La Rondine premiered in Monte Carlo instead of Vienna, in 1917. The glamorous Gilda dalla Rizza sang Magda. No Puccini opera was less than respected and applauded, but La Rondine won few hearts. The American premiere waited until 1928.

Why the neglect? There's no huge passion in La Rondine. This is an opera of waltzes and kisses, and beautiful it is. There's an incredible ensemble in the second act. I've never heard it not encored.

So La Rondine, compared to La bohème​, isn't a hit. Then again, compared to La bohème, Fidelio isn't a smash, either. Everything's relative.

Ohio State attracts gifted young artists among the soloists, orchestra and chorus. Parry knows his stuff. La Rondine may not be bloody, but it's nothing if not beautiful.

See you there.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.
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