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ON ITS OPENING NIGHT, “LA RONDINE”
Almost reached Perfection

Soprano Amanda Kingston in the principal role of Magda
Soprano Amanda Kingston in the principal role of Magda

By  Iride Aparicio

Photos By: Pat Kirk

SAN JOSÉ, CA – The name LA  RONDINE  is a metaphor. Librettist GIUSEPPE ADAMI, a poet, used the name for the libretto he was re-writing which was the Italian version of the German libretto written by ALFRED M. WILLNER and HEINZ REICHERT.

In Italian, “rondine” means swallow, and the swallows are migrant birds who abandon their “homes” and fly away from them for miles, in search of the warmth of the sun. In the libretto that ADAMI was writing, Magda, the protagonist of the story, leaves the comfort  of  the house that her lover keeps for her, to fly into the arms of a student, a young man without money, who could make her feel the warmth, that only true love can provide.   

When composer  Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michelo Secondo, Maria Puccini (l858-l924) visited  Vienna in l912,  he was commissioned by an Austrian publisher to use the libretto written by WILLNER and REICHERT, to  write a Lyric Opera, (Operetta) in the Austrian manner. Refusing to write music for an “operetta,” Puccini  demanded a new libretto written in Italian. The libretto was written by ADAMI. The Italian composer was never satisfied with the Italian version of the German libretto,  but he wrote the music for it. Because the story of original libretto had been written for an operetta, not for an opera, Puccini wrote “light music” for it, Lyric "songs" and even included Waltz rhythms in his work. With the name of  LA RONDINE (The Swallow) Puccini's Opera premiered at the Grand Theatre de Monte Carlo in Monaco, on March 27, l9l7  

The story of LA RONDINE that takes place in Paris, during the Twenty Century. It starts at a soirée  held at the fashionable residence Rambaldo (TREVOR NEAL) an elder rich Parisian man, keeps for his young lover Magda,(AMANDA KINGSTON)  

Prunier (MASON GATES)

At the soirée, Prunier, (MASON GATES pictured above) a poet, reveals  to the guests that the Parisian  society of the  Twenty Century is returning  to “romantic love”, which he compares to "The plague." to “A new madness that is causing all sorts of problems among the young women in Paris, including Doretta.” When asked by the guests who is Doretta, Prunier reveals that she is the heroine of “Doretta’s Dream.” a new song he composed. In the song, that he sings, Doretta is a young girl who was offered gold by a king, in exchange for her love. But when the king promises her to end all her problems, she tells the King that she cannot do that because gold does not bring happiness. At this point, Prunier stops singing. When the curious guests start asking him  what happened to Doretta,  Prunier explains to them that he does not know because his song has not been finished yet.  Magda  decides to finish it for him.  Singing her version of what happened, to the girl, (Forshadowing the plot of the Opera) Magda sings that when Doretta was kissed in the lips by a student, that passionate kiss convinced her that true love is better than gold.

Magda’s friends at her soirée
Magda’s friends at her soirée

Presented at the California Theatre as part of the 2017- 2018 Season, of Opera San Jose.  LA RONDINE, directed under the baton of  conductor  CHRISTOPER LARKING, and the direction of  CANDACE EVANS. needs to be heard and seen. PUCCINI's lyric music, is beautiful. The tone of  voice of each one of the singers, is wonderful. The sets of LARRY HANCOCK elgant, creative and true- to- life, and the costumes of ELIZABETH POINDEXTER, sumptuos. The work is gift to the ears and to the eyes.

In the first of its three acts,  Magda, dressed in a beautiful formal gown, chats his her friends all dressed in ball gowns as the men in tuxedos more around the elegant room. On opening night, the high-light in this act was Magda, (AMANDA KINGTON) singing the aria known as  “Dorella’s Dream” in a lovely timbre of voice  reaching the very high notes of  her lyric melody  in a pure flute-like sounding tone. In this act, Tenor MASON GATES in the role of the poet Prunier, embodied his role well His Tenor’s voice added quality of sound the the Act.  On her part, Soprno ELENA GALVAN, in her comic role as Lisette, added the humor in her charming impersonation of Magda's maid.

In the Second act, the set of BULLIER’s looked authentic, with men and women walking around and others sitting at the tables. It conveyed the atmosphere of the place in Paris where men go to meet “Cocottes”, as the ill-reputed women in France are called. The first part of the scene, when Magda (in disguise) enters BULLIER and is being harassed by a group of young students and finds refuge at a table where Ruggero (JASON SLAYDON) sits, looked very Natural. Their duet blended thier voices well and Tenor and we could add that SLAYDON was among one of the few singers that night who pronounced well his Italian. The highlights of the act were the Can Can dance, which made the place lively and the Ballet which added sophistication to BULLIER.  The problem with the Ballet, however, was that it was performed at the same time that Magda and Ruggero were singing their duet, and watching the dance,  distracted the audience from (reading ) the lovers first dialogue.

L-R standing GATEs & GALVAN sitting KINGSTON and SLAYDON
L-R standing GATEs & GALVAN sitting KINGSTON and SLAYDON

Visually, the set of the third act representing a lodge in Nice. France with the dark blue Mediterranean Sea in the background was beautiful. True to life. The acting of the singers, however,  needed to be better.  

Magda and Ruggero

The action in the third act of LA RONDINE is the drama in the opera, and on opening night, it was weak. It lacked dramatism in the facial expressions. in the main actors/singers Magda and Ruggero (pictured above) movements, in their demeanor and even in the feeling while singing. The notes in their arias were  sung perfectly and the tone produced was beutiful, but the Lyrics  needed better pauses, hesitations, and better interpretation. Maybe to sing them reflecting more pain on their faces. more angst. and Magda (KINGSTON) better enunciation of the Italian.  

The drama in LA RONDINE was lacking in this act. Magda (KINGSTON) sang some of her arias standing at the edge of the stage, facing the audience instead of facing Ruggero (SLAYDON), and while his part, was represented better, it still demanded more fast movements. more face contortions, more angst. The scene needed more action on both their parts: more touching, more hugging, better facial expressions. why? because the audience needed to experience Magda’s passion and Ruggero’s desperation. Adding more physical interaction among the actors in the third ACT,  could have made this production of LA RONDINE perfect.  

Supported in Part by a grant from the Applied Materials Foundation and the Cultural Affairs Grant for the City of San Jose, LA RONDINE will play at the California Theatre until November 26. To order tickets call the box office at 404-437-4450 or order them online at https://www.operasj.org