Friday, May 29, 2009

La Rondine

Giacomo Puccini's opera La Rondine is not one of his most popular ones, but I like it. I have for a long time. It was one of the operas I listened to while working for my Master's degree; it seemed to fit in with the bohemian lifestyle of graduate students. Not that I was by any means bohemian; there are limits to how wild one can get while living in a flat with one's grandmother in Schenectady. But part of the scene of university life is that while it seems like it will go on depressingly forever, the future is often uncertain, which can create a malaise. And meanwhile, in most university towns, there are bars and nightclubs where people fall in love, and hearts are broken, just like in La Rondine.

Chi il bel sogno di Doretta is one of the most exquisite arias ever composed; it was featured in the Merchant-Ivory film A Room With A View. "What do riches matter when happiness has blossomed at last?" is the theme of the song, and of the opera. Basically, the story of La Rondine ("The Swallow") is along the lines of Verdi's La Traviata and its film version, Camille, both based on the Dumas novel. A sad but good-hearted courtesan finds true love at last, but because the love is sincere, she must leave the man she loves for his own good. La Rondine is different because the heroine does not die of tuberculosis; she only goes away.

Yes, the characters are decadent; yet, they are able at some point to acknowledge their immoral behavior, or at least lament it. Because it was frowned upon by society that men and women live together without being married, there was more hope that the relationships be broken off, especially if marriage was out of the question. Guilt is not healthy if nourished but it can and does lead to repentance.

We live now in a shameless time. Parents no longer intervene as the fathers do in both La Traviata and La Rondine. In those old operas, there was sin, there was great passion, but there was also great love and the willingness to make sacrifices for the beloved. There is now little shame, little love and few willing to sacrifice. And sometimes I wonder if people are really happy. Share


Anonymous said...

How wonderful! I have always loved A Room With a View; I had no idea how perfectly suited this aria was to the scene it was used in. Lucy dreams of a passionate love - and George delivers! Even though I did not know the words before, it always moved me when I heard it. Now I can appreciate it more fully!

Charles said...

This is a sublime performance of Chi il bel sogno di Doretta.

elena maria vidal said...

I agree, Charles, I have incorporated it into the post.

Pentimento said...

I'm not sure about "Rondine," but "La traviata" is a very Christian work, in which sacrifice and suffering work to purify and, it's implied, to redeem the "traviata" or wayward woman.

At the same time, there's neither guilt nor repentance in Puccini's "La Bohème" outside of Musetta's brief prayer to the Madonna while Mimì is dying, and yet the characters are incredibly sympathetic and the story heartbreaking.

Charles said...

I hadn't heard of Ainoa Arteta until I saw that clip. What a poised and elegant singer she is. :)