Independent Swallow in the opera house

Although I have seen bats joining in on stage at Glyndebourne, this was the opera La Rondine – the Swallow at the Royal Opera House, London.

EG said that, as usual Puccini’s female lead was a victim. But as we talked about this, we realised that this is not the case. The story, like Traviata, is of a courtesan finding true love with an innocent boy. In Traviata, the boy, Alfredo, knows all about Violetta’s past, but she is persuaded by his father into sacrificing her happiness to free Alfredo’s family from the shame of associating with her. In Rondine, Magda deceives her innocent lover into thinking of her as equally innocent, and then when he wants to marry her, freely decides to renounce her him and return to her courtesan life, rather than pollute the expectations of his pure family. She is distraught, but she is a free agent and it is her lover, Ruggero, who is the weeping victim at the end.

The setting, in charming detail, was the 1920’s. The direction was so detailed that the singers gestures brought the period to mind as much as the costume. All the characters continued to act their roles (with some very funny by-play), while the main singers carried the story. It was an evening beautiful to watch and listen to and especially moving at the end. It was the last of three performances by the two singers of the main parts – Magda and Ruggero – and they both ended in tears at the final onstage parting.

And in this opera there are no bodies on stage, everyone lives, though not necessarily happily, ever after.