The story of Puccini’s “La Rondine” may be familiar to those of you who have seen Puccini’s “La Traviata,” (written by Verdi) as they have identical plots. However, I will describe the plot in great detail to you here anyway, because Puccini did at least have the decency to change the characters’ names, which can get confusing.
The hero of our story, Ruggero “Rondine” Jones, has just arrived in Paris. Apparently his father is tired of him and has sent Ruggero off to some friends of his in France. Ruggero is very excited, because he has never been to Paris, and because he is a tenor, which makes him very excitable. It is here that he runs into what will later become a problem for him, another tenor on stage, named Prunier. Ruggero, having sighted the other tenor, runs off stage to find a bar, and we end Act 1.
Act 2 begins in the bar, or nightclub, or “Moulin Rouge” (which also has the same plot as “La Traviata”). Ruggero walks in and, of course, all the girls swoon over him, but he has very high standards, so he waits for just the right girl to walk in. Magda comes in, looking for love in all the wrong places, and finds Ruggero and they hit it off. Now, it must be noted here that Magda has a boyfriend already, named Rambaldo, but I guess since both guys have names that start with “R” and end with “O” it is easy to confuse them. Speaking of confusing people’s names, Magda apparently forgets her own name and starts telling people her name is “Paulette.”
Then, the worst thing that could possibly happen to Ruggero happens. The other tenor comes on stage. Also his date’s boyfriend comes on stage. This is not good news for ol’ Ruggy, so he runs offstage to get some water and check his e-mail, and then comes back on at the end of the act to collect Mag-I mean Pau-, well, let’s just call her Magette. They quickly fall in love, and so Ruggero and Maggot leave the stage to live happily ever after.
Act 3 is a grim depiction of the life of a tenor. First of all, he does not have any money, which makes his girlfriend very unhappy. Second of all, he seems a little too close to his mother, what with all the letter writing and the giving kisses in her name. But none of that matters, because Ruggero and Paulette are madly and love, and have come up with a cute celebrity couple name for themselves: “Ru-Paul.”
Ruggero leaves the stage for only a moment, but that nasty other tenor Prunier seizes the opportunity to arrive and steal focus and mess things up, which he does with his girlfriend Lisette. Together, we can call them “Prunette.” Prunette explains to Maggot that she is with the wrong guy, even though his name starts with “R” and ends with “O,” and that her real name is Magda, and she should come home. Ruggero, sensing another tenor on stage, rushes over and tells Maggot that they are allowed to get married, because he asked his Mom, and she said it was okay.
Now, here is where things get weird. Puccini wrote about 45 different endings, so anyone putting on the show gets to participate in an operatic “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” story. The first version has Maggot telling Ruggero that she is leaving him, and then he is very sad. Lame! The second ending has Ruggero discovering that “Paulette” is really “Magda,” so he leaves her and she drowns herself. Lame! You will want to go with the little-known fourth ending, in which Ruggero kills both Rambaldo and Prunier in a duel, and then wins the lottery, marries Maggot, and moves to Barcelona for a life on the beach.
However you feel like ending it, it’s a great show, with some of the greatest music ever written, and has the same basic plot as “Pretty Woman,” which features some of the greatest music ever written, like “Pretty Woman,” by Roy Orbison. You won’t regret checking it out.