Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini – La Rondine, opera in three acts
22 December 1858 (Lucca, Tuscany) – 29 November 1924 (due to complications from throat cancer surgery in Brussels, Belgium)
Genesis of La Rondine (1913-1920)
Puccini composed La Rondine, an Italian comic opera in three acts, between 1913 and 1916. The work was first performed at the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo (also called the Théâtre du Casino) on 2 or 27 March 1917 after the Viennese premiere was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War I. The work was originally conceived as an operetta (à la Lehár) but Puccini replaced the spoken dialogue with sung recitative. Puccini continued to revise the score, and the second version (with a different ending) was premiered at Teatro Massimo, Palermo, in 1920. The orchestration of the third version was not finished until seventy years after his death. This completion was commissioned and premiered at the Teatro Regio di Tornio on March 22, 1994.
La Rondine (The Swallow) is Puccini’s most neglected work. A representative of the early twentieth-century style of verismo, scholars have criticized it for avoiding the high drama, death, and violence of his earlier works. This “defect” of the plot may be directly related to the composer’s personal life. After the great successes of his years composing in the small mountain community of Torre del Lago (Manon Lescaut, 1893; La bohème, 1896; Tosca, 1900; Madama Butterfly, 1904), Puccini appeared less frequently in public. Most of his operas from this period are more escapist, such as La fanciulla del West, based on a local Italian barmaid Giulia Manfredi (but set in the gold-mining country of California); La Rondine, which is set on the French Riviera; and the unfinished masterpiece Turandot, set in ancient China (but based on a Venetian play).
Real Life Tragedy
The decade of Puccini’s life leading up to 1913 was filled with personal losses and scandals. Following his passion for new technology and high speeds, the car he was riding in missed a curve and overturned on a foggy, unpaved road between Lucca and Torre del Lago (1903). Puccini was pinned beneath the vehicle: his leg was partly crushed, and his driver’s broken, requiring long periods of recovery and rest. Giuseppe Giacosa, his friend and librettist for Bohème, Tosca, and Butterfly died in 1906. …
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