La Rondine at the IU Opera Theater is Giacomo Puccini’s tale of a rich, kept woman who falls in love with a young innocent, only to be separated from him by her past. If this sounds a bit like La Traviata, that’s because it is! Yet there are rich complications and ironies at work in the story.
Bored Magda, the heroine, pines for a romantic moment she experienced in her youth, at the working class Cafe Bullier. Inspired by the poet Prunier, she goes back to the cafe after many years. There she finds a young innocent, Ruggero, to join her in replaying her romantic fantasy. Ruggero falls in love with her, and the two form a more extensive liaison. But when the innocent proposes marriage, the fantasy meets reality, and Magda herself breaks it off.
The production at the IU Opera Theater features lovely sets for the salon, the cafe and a beach front house by guest designer William Forrester, and colorful period conscious costumes by IU Department of Theatre and Drama Costume Design head Linda Pisano. The combination elicited applause each time the curtain opened.
Saturday evening’s Magda, Carolina Castells, was strong throughout, but most moving in the final scenes. Jonathan Mathews was a good counterpart to her as the young Ruggero. Jennifer Jakob as her perky maid Lisette challenged Castells for the vocal honors. Jonathan Mathews as the poet Prunier sang well and had a delightfully comic touch as he affected the high life, but wooed the maid. Karl Kanowsky played the part of Magda’s benefactor Rambaldo. Though it’s a small part, his presence is valuable.
The stage direction is by Vincent Liotta with choreography by Chris Faesi. They made the complexities of the richly intricate scene at the Café Bullier quite clear, which contributed to a very satisfying evening’s entertainment. David Effron conducted.