The activities in this guide address several aspects of La Rondine:
The opera’s exploration of love, romance, and responsibility
Features of the opera’s structure and text that distinguish it as a work of modernity
The relationships among forms of musical narrative, including opera, operetta and the Broadway-style musical
Creative choices and notable personalities involved in this new Metropolitan Opera production
The guide seeks not only to acquaint students with La Rondine, but also to encourage them to think more broadly about opera—and the performing arts in general—as a means of personal and philosophical expression. Little prior knowledge is required for the activities.
The Ends of Love: A Close Look at Motivation, Behavior, and Decision-Making in La Rondine
For some critics, the culminating crisis of La Rondine — a love that seems impossible to one of the lovers—is weak in drama, compared to the desert exile of a Manon Lescaut or the ritual suicide of a Cio-Cio-San. But La Rondine can be interpreted as a subtle commentary on matters of romance and love frequently taken for granted by both operetta and more serious opera. In this activity, students will consider how characters in La Rondine discuss, express, and understand love, examining the possibilities floated by Puccini and his librettists with an eye toward exploring their own romantic concepts, feelings and behaviors.
Listen to a number of selections from La Rondine for both musical and textual meanings
Develop their own interpretations of individual characters’ understandings of love and romance
Probe the relationship between the notions of love presented and the dramatic choices available to Puccini and his librettists
Become acquainted with character relationships in La Rondine in advance of The Met: Live in HD transmission
The Past is Present: A Close Look at Remembrance and Reenactment in La Rondine
La Rondine first appeared in a time of upheaval. The electric light, the automobile, the telephone and the airplane had recently changed the world forever. World War I was being fought across Europe, while in Russia, a revolution had just overthrown the czar. Avantgarde movements were on the rise in art, music and literature. In Italy, in particular, a group of artists and musicians who called themselves Futurists called for the overthrow of traditional forms and all respect for the past, to be replaced by a new aesthetic honoring machines, speed and physical violence. Since 1910, as a symbol of the old school and a composer of great sentiment, Puccini had been a Futurist target. They called his operas “base, rickety and vulgar.”
La Rondine seems to glide above such turmoil: a gossipy love story set in gay prewar Paris and along the sparkling Riviera. Puccini himself described the work as light and sentimental, requiring not energy or momentum, but “finesse, nuance, suppleness.” Notably, in the context of Puccini’s attackers and in contrast to his three previous works, it lacks any hint of physical violence. Yet attention to the nuances of La Rondine reveals that issues like remembrance, the burdens of the past and the possibilities of an unburdened present throb at the heart of this opera, couched though they may be in personal terms, not lofty pronouncements of ideology. In this activity, students will explore experiences of time and memory as expressed in the music and the narrative of La Rondine.
Investigate Puccini’s use of melody and instrumentation to convey a sense of psychological time
Identify storytelling techniques characterizing La Rondine as a modern work of art
Consider how differences between La Rondine and other works by Puccini might signal evolution in the composer’s ideas and beliefs
Acquaint themselves with the character arc of the opera’s heroine, Magda, in advance of The Met: Live in HD transmission