La Rondine at Teatro del Maggio

By Mark Villarreal (California State University in Florence)

I tucked in my silk shirt, buttoned the seams to every cuff-link, and slowly winded the laces of my scrappy leather boots; the platforms having touched every cobblestone in Florence, the fast-paced streets of New York, and the Champs Elysees of Paris. Tonight we would attend the ‘Opera di Firenze’ together, and in eager anticipation, glide across the city once more.

Stepping off of the ghostly tram, I quivered at the cold air gliding across my chest. Rubbing my hands together, I looked around the station and took note of the beautiful Florentines dressed in leather, and smothered in posh couture. The designer heels clicked along the steps of the concrete platforms, and echoed onto the other end of the street. Models gathered at the center of a dimly lit square, and in the foreground, a monstrous work of modern architecture bathed in the moonlight. The crooked streets, cobblestone pavements, and charming windows transitioned into linear compositions, grandiose modernism, and clean organization. It was a sight for sore eyes. I crept into the lobby and spun as the hounds of Florentines swirled around me. I was in the theatre; the sound of chairs squeaking, and coats being hung on upholstered fabric.

As the curtains drew up, the mumbling white noise of the concert hall steadily lowered to a glittering hum. La Rondine or ‘The Swallow’ was a tragedy in my mind, set in the nineteenth century; but the stage lights let up to reveal a bustling house party set within the realm of modern day Paris. The stage was a sharp object, white and contemporary, covered in bombastic colors worn by eccentric characters. Magda was a charming socialite living at the epicenter of Paris but when she meets Ruggero, her lifestyle and existence are compromised to change. Lisette, the housekeeper, listens in to every conversation, outwitting her contemporaries and using her cleverness to fool her mistress (Magda). Paris remains the city of love, but what exactly is love without the trauma and heartbreak? La Rondine reminds us that love must coexist with consequence, or for that matter, tragedy. The ensemble sang with operatic degrees of perfection, engulfing every corner of the hall without ease (and without a microphone).

As the symphony caressed the voices of the final act, I sat in my chair realizing I was existing in three places at once. I was in Paris, because I was seeing it. But I was also in New York; every stage play I had seen before this remained there. And how could one forget, I was in Florence. The lights came down, and the wave of applause commenced like a jet engine roaring after take off. I smiled. The star of La Rondine gave her final bow, blowing a kiss to the audience that witnessed her greatness and would one day see her light flicker.

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