La rondine (The Swallow) is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami, based on a libretto by Alfred Maria Willner and Heinz Reichert. It was first performed at the Théâtre de l’Opéra (or the Théâtre du Casino) in Monte Carlo on 27 March 1917.
In October 1913, the directors of Vienna's Carltheater asked Puccini to compose an operetta. After confirming that it could take the form of a through-composed comic opera "like Rosenkavalier but more amusing and more organic," he agreed. For two years, the work proceeded slowly. Because of the outbreak of World War I, the contract was revised, the Viennese management released its rights to the opera’s première, and the neutral territory of Monte Carlo was selected for the opening. In Italy Puccini tried to sell the rights to his editor Giulio Ricordi who refused to buy them. Ricordi's rival Sonzogno didn't think twice when he got the chance to finally get the rights to an opera of Italy's most famous living composer, but despite the artistic value of the score, La rondine was, through the years, one of Puccini's least successful operas. Even now performances and recordings are very rare, though slightly more frequent than they used to be until the 1980s.
La rondine also shares some resemblance to Verdi's La traviata. One critic called it "the poor man's La traviata.
Act I. At a cocktail party in Magda's salon, Prunier declares that love is in the air. He begins singing his latest song, which Magda completes. She explains that as the kept woman of Rambaldo, she does not know true love; she recalls her youth, her aunt, and a young student she met and loved briefly. The young man Ruggero enters with an introduction for Rambaldo and asks where the best place to spend a night in Paris is. The guests agree it is Bullier's. After the guests leave, Prunier returns in secret to escort the maid Lisette to that cabaret. Later, Magda, on a whim, disguises herself and also goes.
Act II. At Bullier's, everyone is singing and dancing. Magda meets Ruggero, and they dance and fall in love. Lisette recognizes Magda, but Prunier tells her she is mistaken. At the table, Lisette confesses to borrowing Magda's clothing and jewelry. Rambaldo enters, and Magda quietly has Prunier hide Ruggero. Rambaldo demands an explanation, and she explains that this is true love. She wants to stay with Ruggero and leave him. After Rambaldo leaves, Ruggero returns, and the couple confesses their love.
Act III. Magda and Ruggero are living in a cottage by the sea. He has no idea how they will pay their mounting bills. He tells Magda that he has written his parents for permission to marry her. Magda is deeply touched, but knows that she can never marry him because of her past. Prunier and Lisette arrive. She has had a disastrous and brief career as an actress, constantly criticized by Prunier; she begs for her job back, and Magda consents. Prunier delivers the message that Rambaldo wants her back, and tells her that she cannot maintain a life here. Ruggero returns with the letter permitting the marriage, but Magda finally tells all to Ruggero. Like a swallow, she flies back to Rambaldo, leaving Ruggero heart-broken.