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Puccini’s La rondine updated to the era of The Great Gatsby

Head of Friends Susan Fisher on Nicolas Joël’s lavish production that brings to life the glamour of the Roaring Twenties.

By Susan Fisher (Head of Membership)

25 June 2013 at 12.47pm | 8 Comments

La rondine is not like any other work by Giacomo Puccini.  It has more in common with a Viennese operetta than a grand opera.

The premiere took place in Monte Carlo in 1917 but Nicolas Joël’s Royal Opera production of La rondine takes us to the era that came immediately after - the glamorous world of Art Deco, evoked with lavish costumes, fabulous jewellery and exquisite sets.

Magda, the heroine of the piece, is a courtesan who exploits men and their wealth. In her wonderful aria, Doretta's Dream, she imagines a different sort of life - true love with a penniless student. Unlike Mimi (Puccini's flirtatious heroine in La bohème), she does not die but continues her life as a kept woman, at the cost of abandoning the man who really loves her. Doretta's Dream turns out to be just a dream.

Like the characters of The Great Gatsby (currently playing to packed cinemas in Baz Luhrmann's starry film adaptation) the protagonists of La rondine live in a world of pretence, decadence and hypocrisy. Daisy Buchanan and Magda share many similarities.  Both are glamorous and compelling women, but also shallow and self-absorbed. Both are ultimately ruled by their instinct for survival.

I love this production, not least because Puccini's score is so unique. The show has everything: wonderful music, great dances and, above all, a great cast.

La rondine runs from 5 – 21 July. Tickets are on sale now. The production is sponsored by Coutts. Generous philanthropic support was given by Mr and Mrs Christopher W.T. Johnston and The American Friends of Covent Garden.

By Susan Fisher (Head of Membership)

25 June 2013 at 12.47pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged 1920s, Angela Gheorghiu, Art Deco, by Nicolas Joël, F. Scott Fitzgerald, history, La Rondine, The Great Gatsby

This article has 8 comments

  1. John responded on 26 June 2013 at 10:30am Reply

    It's a shame that this production isn't yet sold out - it's a beautiful show with a superb cast. Perhaps it's just been show too many times with the same prima donna? I think Gheorghiu needs to learn a new role if she expects to sell out the house - next year La boheme again for the hundredth time! Why not present la Rondine with Netrebko or Fleming to prove its versatility as a star vehicle?

  2. Really looking forward to this opera, a new one for me and the opportunity to hear Gheorghiu in a role she relishes. Wouldn't dream of demanding a singer try new roles just to fill the House.
    PS please change the text so pretence is spelt correctly - the mistake grates!

  3. Alice Poulsen responded on 29 June 2013 at 11:46am Reply

    It is much worst that it seems with this production as most of the tickets on the ROH website that seems to have sold - are actually for sale at TicketMaster for half price or less!!

    Thanks for not offering the "Friends" the option to upgrade.

    So this is the 4th production where ticket sales have been heavily discounted this season and absolutely no offers to "Friends"??

    No wonder many are talking about stopping their support .............. shame that a "house" which used to have a reputation to be proud of, is completely loosing the plot.

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 1 July 2013 at 4:48pm

      Hi Alice,

      We believe that the Friends Office have been in touch but just to clarify, we're very grateful for the support that we receive from the Friends and other supporters. Occasionally we find that some of our productions do not sell as well as we would like and this is when we offer discounts.

      The Friends membership fee is considered to be a donation and qualifies for Gift Aid, and one of the rules of Gift Aid is that no exclusive discounts are allowed. Therefore we're sorry but we're not able to give the Friends exclusive discounts.


      Digital Content Producer

  4. John responded on 1 July 2013 at 11:42am Reply

    Er, are you seriously suggesting a publicly subsided opera house should be content to have empty seats? Surely the fact that the public are choosing not to attend is the strongest possible argument for a singer trying a new role? There are plenty of suitable ones to choose from!

  5. Alice Poulsen responded on 1 July 2013 at 9:22pm Reply

    Thank you Chris for the note. There is nothing stopping ROH making the discounts available to BOTH the public and "Friends" in an open an honest way. The way this has been done in the last year, is both underhanded and directly excluding "Friends" unless they happen to find out by accident about an offer and even then it can be difficult to get thanks to the how the website works.

    Just saying there is a number of things ROH could do if they wanted to and I am more than happy to put this in writing to Membership/Development.

    But please - trying looking what you CAN do, instead of being focused on what you CANNOT do. Turn a negative to a positive, and create great brand loyalty - that in the long run, will generate more money for ROH and something that you cannot buy for money, namely, goodwill.

    • Barry responded on 3 July 2013 at 9:06pm

      I live in Cornwall and made an online booking with ROH for two seats in the Grand Tier. Paid full price for them which was quite a stretch on the budget ! I will feel very let down if I discover I could have got them cheaper on Ticketmaster. I am almost afraid to check !

  6. J Ma responded on 2 July 2013 at 2:26pm Reply

    Fully agree Alice. I have stopped my Firends membership as I felt CG was becoming arrogant in their approach and bumping up prices for reruns of productions I had seen anyway. Transferring my affection to ENO, Better more varied productions, easier to get the tickets I want and less cost too

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