Like Ralph, I too am inordinately fond of this work, a tale of love that could never be - the quartet in Act II is pure enchantment and genius, whilst the work can confidently lay claim to containing opera's greatest "Break-up" duet at the end of the final act as well. It's neglect therefore is a loss to all opera-lovers, but perhaps understandable - running at just under 90 minutes, it is a bit shorter than Boheme, but longer than Cav or Pag, so programming it is difficult. And as Ralph points out, the composer himself wasn't convinced with it either, particularly the ending, with the second (of three possible) endings usually performed today, where Magda leaves her lover Ruggero distraught onstage, to resume her life as a "kept woman" with the elderly, but very rich, Rambaldo. Some readers may be aware that at the time of his death, in between writing Turandot, Puccini was also working on a further alternative ending for La Rondine, there being in Puccini's archives an unorchestrated composition of a third act Rambaldo-Magda duet, in which she rejects his pleading for her to return, only to be then rejected by Ruggero, who cannot countenance her past. In the third revision, the opera ends with Magda alone on the stage with her maid, but the final sketches in the archives suggest a different ending again and these have been taken by Marta Domingo (yes, Mrs Placido) to produce a "fourth" possible ending. In Ms Domingo's reconceptualisation, she takes her cue from these sketches and has the abandoned Magda taking her final floating note as she walks out into the sea to drown herself. Thoughtful, I reckon - and far better than some productions, for example, where Turandot kills herself at the end.
As for Ralph's conspectus, it is rare for me to disagree with this usual fair and considered opinions - but I do on this occasion! I do not know the del Cupolo version, having instead learnt the work from the Pappano/EMI recording, which I then thought was superseded by the live Met transmission from 2009, again with Alagna and Gheorghiu, but this time with a stronger Lisette and Prunier. In the pit that night in New York was Marco Armiliato, who I felt paced the work even better than Pappano and the whole performance is infused with the magic and frisson that only a great night at the opera can bring, but which is so difficult to replicate in the recording studio (this is, of course, a DVD only release). Turning to the Maazel CBS/Sony recording after these two, I have to say I feel that in spite of the undoubted vocal glories of te Kanawa and Domingo, Maazel's conducting was to me a little cool and brusque - I even rated the Molinari- Pradeli above it for that reason too !!
But it would be a boring world if we all agreed on the same thing. I don't know any of the other live recordings Ralph considers, so once more I am indebted to a fine and thought-provoking read ! Bravo to Mrs Moore's cooking !!
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