La Rondine “The Swallow” | Opera Theatre of St. Louis (OTSL)

La-Rondine 75It has been quite a while since I’ve attended a show with a crowd as enthusiastic as those present at the opening night of this show.

 

 

 

 

La-Rondine 500

Magda de Civry (Corinne Winters) dreams of experiencing a romance like that of her first love. This is certainly not the relationship she has with Rambaldo (Matthew Burns), her long-term protector, who seems to have no appreciation for the love and sentimentality described by La Rondine’s resident poet Prunier (John McVeigh). Prunier’s love ballad, combined with a foreshadowing palm reading on Magda, propels Magda into a state of nostalgia, and she compulsively decides to disguise herself and return to the location where she met her first love years ago, Bullier’s restaurant in Paris. There she runs into Ruggero (Anthony Kalil), the son of a friend of Rambaldo, who had actually been in the company of both Rambaldo and Magda earlier that evening. However, between Magda’s disguise and insistence that her name is actually Paulette, Rambaldo doesn’t suspect a thing, and the two fall quickly and madly in love.

Giacomo Puccini’s La Rondine is a common tale of finding love under false circumstances, which, in turn, threatens a quick end to the newly-formed, sensational relationship (Ruggero knows not of Magda’s true identity, nor of her past as a courtesan, or prostitute). I provide the brief plot synopsis above not only to give my readers a sense for the story, but to make the point that I suggest not seeing this show without a familiarity with the storyline. Although the opera is in English, operatic dialect is so grand and thick that even being performed in a native language doesn’t guarantee lyrical clarity, evident by the fact that there is a screen on the right and left sides of the stage transcribing the show throughout. The aware audience member will spend less time darting his or her eyes back and forth from the screens to the stage, as plot comprehension will come more easily.

It has been quite a while since I’ve attended a show with a crowd as enthusiastic as those present at the opening night of this show. The amount of love they continually showed to the conductor, Stephen Lord, and his orchestra, was moving and, of course, extremely well-deserved—experiencing this show with a live orchestra is one of the most exquisite, flawless aspects of the production. After each power ballad an uproar of applause overwhelmed the space, supplementing the emotion alluding from the stage. The show’s leads, Winters and Kalil, have gorgeous voices and as individuals showcased the emotions of their respective characters genuinely. However, I did not find their instantaneous connection to be quite as believable because chemistry was lacking. For this reason, I’m of the opinion that McVeigh as Prunier and Sydney Mancasola as Magda’s maid Lisette are actually the stars of La Rondine. Described as a lyrical comedy in three acts, the humor in La Rondine comes primarily from these two characters and their dysfunctional but charming relationship. It’s a shame Mancasola’s character didn’t have bigger numbers written into this show. Her voice was absolutely breathtaking.

La Rondine’s storyline isn’t very satisfying if I’m being honest, but I could appreciate the show’s themes (such as the idea that love can be viewed as an epidemic—in the positive and negative sense of the word—and can be nothing more than a temporary solution to the fulfilment of one’s desires). Regardless, the orchestra-accompanied performance is, as a whole, simply splendid. | Megan Washausen

La Rondine will be performed at OTSL on June 3, June 12, June 18, June 20, June 24, and June 28. For ticket information, visit www.opera-stl.org.

Photo Credit: Ken Howard

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