A world premiere of sorts was given by the Peabody Opera Theatre in Baltimore Friday night under the musical direction of Frederick Prausnitz. Puccini's "La Rondine" tells the bittersweet tale of Magda, a woman of the world who meets a naive young man named Ruggero, with whom she had a brief and beautiful love affair. Eventually she returns to the rich and very old Rambaldo.
Magda's decision to tell or not to tell Ruggero about her sordid past is pivotal for the denoucement, and the libretto here has been revised to take that decision out of Magda's hand and put it into Rambaldo's. Director Prausnitz is intent on turning this nostalgic playet into a tragedy of epic proporations. He even calls La Rondine "an Italian Rosenkavalier" in his notes. If all this sounds pretentious and wrongheaded, it is. Fortunately in this case, most of the Peabody student cast did not betray much acquaintance with this or any other dramatic interpretation, and the score triumphed.
As Magda, soprano Gail Marple had a nervous start, and Doretta's famous dream emerged as one of trying tessistura. But in the subsequent two acts she showed a gorgeous, limpid voice and much promise. A promise already fulfilled was Linda Gibson's portrayal of the maid Lisette. Hers is a lovely and clear lyric soprano, with a gentle vibrato and an instantly rcognizable timbre.
The Peabody Orchestra played well, with particular verve and lush transparency int he cafe scenes.