LaRondine tends to be overlooked when it comes to Puccini operas. Indeed, some fans of La Bohème and Tosca regard it as a disaster, but it’s actually nothing of the kind. The opera (whose title translates as “The Swallow,” referring to the bird) took life in 1913 when Austrian theatrical producers approached the Italian composer to write a Viennese operetta. Delayed by World War I (in which Austria and Italy fought on opposing sides), the frothy tale of a banker’s mistress who leaves her protector for a poet finally premiered in 1917 to positive reviews but disappointing ticket sales, at least by Puccini’s standards. For decades the opera was mainly known for the first-act soprano aria “Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta,” an attractive piece that was often excerpted for recitals.

Lately, though, the rest of the opera has received more of a hearing, largely because the married couple of Italian-French tenor Roberto Alagna and Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu have championed it. These singers star in the Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of this opera in movie theaters this Saturday. This finely wrought work has some unfamiliar kinks that you’d expect from an Italian musical giant consciously trying to write in the style of a different operatic culture. The second-act waltz “Nella dolce carezza della danza” – scored unusually for two sopranos and two tenors – is one of the more ecstatic pieces of music Puccini ever wrote. Here’s a prime opportunity to hear it.

La Rondine plays at 11am Sat at various local movie theaters; check Calendar for locations. Tickets are $15-24. Call 213-639-6166.

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