When people talk of La Rondine, usually their reaction is the same: beautiful music and difficult plot. Puccini himself had a hard time capturing the spirit of his heroine, as well as the scope of the piece (is it opera or operetta?), and modern audiences have expressed even more difficulty relating to some of the characters’ defining choices due to their specificity in this moment in time.
In 1914, expectations about essential values for women to uphold, and values important to families were markedly different from today. A love story between a “regular Joe” and a modern-day escort, while still largely frowned upon, could arguably find more space in today’s society to pursue a loving relationship than 100 years ago. But there are larger undercurrents in this story that provide an anchor to our ability to relate to this opera today.
Donna Shute Provencher beautifully expressed, “Heartbreak is transient, but regret is eternal.” In this production we focus on two main themes: the ability of regret to shape our lives, and its power over the human spirit. Magda, in her desire to pursue a reckless, passionate love affair, finds herself inadvertently learning that true love requires self-sacrifice and honesty. Our telling strives to express the power of what could have been.
Regret forces us to look towards our past, so we decided to present the story as a flashback, through the eyes of Magda’s memories at the outset of World War I. With war on the horizon, Magda finds herself inspired to live for the moment without consideration of the future consequences. At the end of the war, Magda relives this pivotal period in her life, and considers whether her decisions were the correct ones. She finds herself saddled with the question of, “what if”—if she had the foresight, the knowledge, and wisdom to have made different choices, and how that would affect the lives of those around her.
– Octavio Cardenas, Stage Director