ROCHESTER, NY — La Rondine (The Swallow), a splendid yet infrequently staged opera by the great Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, is Eastman Opera Theatre’s spring production — and the first opera to be performed on the newly renovated stage of Eastman Theatre (60 Gibbs St.). The performances, all sung in Italian, will take place at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 31, through Saturday, April 2, and at 2 p.m., Sunday, April 3.
Written in 1917, La Rondine is a bittersweet love story, told with a light touch unique in Puccini’s output. The story focuses on the emptiness and tragedy found in the life of the opera’s heroine, the courtesan Magda. As she approaches middle age in Paris during the 1880s, she tries to reclaim her youth — when her ambitions and sensibilities yearned for an ideal love and a lasting relationship. Living a comfortable yet somewhat stagnant existence with her current client Rambaldo, she rediscovers her youth through a young student (Ruggero). At a time when the intrigue of her courtesan lifestyle is coming to a close, Magda is unable to release her past.
Eastman Opera Theatre’s production, according to Dramatic Director Steven Daigle, tries to enhance the tragedy of Magda’s decisions in life. The production attempts to answer the question of what happened to Magda after rejecting the one person she ever loved. Imagine a women on her death bed, incomplete, and alone who reflects on the key events of her life: A courtesan, at the end of her profession, living a life caught in an endless cycle, meets a young man and is drawn back into the passion of her youth, and in the truest form of sacrifice, rejects the only man she ever loved. She lives the rest her life empty and alone.
“A mysterious woman in mourning clothes reflecting on her past shadows our production,” said Daigle. “She is Magda some 30 years after the ‘real’ events of the opera. The set is fragmented (in the style of the impressionist Eduardo Manet) and at times moves before the audiences’ eyes as impressions of her life form and dissolve in the mind of Magda. As she dies, her soul flies like the swallow, a symbol used repeatedly throughout the opera.”
La Rondine features two alternating casts of Eastman voice students accompanied by the acclaimed Eastman Philharmonia, conducted by Benton Hess, music director of Eastman Opera Theatre. Leading the casts are Jennifer Gliere and Aubrie Willaert as Magda; Sarah Howes and Susan Lamberson as Lisette; Cheol Min Jin and Kevin Park as Ruggero; James Barbato and Grant Knox as Prunier; and Sam Haddad and Marc Webster as Rambaldo.
General admission tickets are $15, with discounts available to University of Rochester ID holders. They are available in advance at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Box Office (108 East Avenue), by phone at 454-2100, or online at www.rochester.edu/concerts. They also are available at any Rochester-area Wegmans Home Video department. In addition, tickets may be purchased at the Eastman Theatre box office one hour before each performance.
For those interested in learning more about La Rondine in advance, the Friends of Eastman Opera will sponsor three pre-performance talks that are free and open to the public. These talks, presented by Professor Russell Miller from Eastman’s voice department, will be held in Room 120 of the Eastman School on Friday (April 1), Saturday (April 2), and Sunday (April 3). Each talk begins one hour before curtain time.
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Note to editors: Steven Daigle and Benton Hess are available for interviews.