Giacomo Puccini’s triptych of operas “Il Tabarro”, “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi” has always posed a major production problem. Are the one-acters always to be performed together in one go or can they be divided into separate evenings?
Last year’s production at Torre Del Lago paired “Il Tabarro” with “Cavalleria Rusticana” (usually combined with “I Pagliacci”). I didn’t think it was all that effective especially as “Tabarro”, a musically rather more advanced piece than “Cav”, was performed first.
There are those who maintain that “Suor Angelica” is a weaker piece than the other two and can, therefore, be easily omitted if a shorter opera evening is desired. I utterly disagree than “Suor Angelica” is “weaker”. Indeed, for me its extraordinary modal harmonies point towards a possible new development in the composer’s art – truncated by his death in 1924 but surely pursued in 19 years younger Respighi’s instrumental and operatic works.
How did the second and final event in Bagni di Lucca’s operatic season handle Puccini’s Trittico?
For a start only selected items from the first two were presented in an unstaged, recital format. This was most effectively contrasted with the second half which was a fully staged production of “Gianni Schicchi”. The fact that a pianist represented the orchestra throughout the evening was not a disadvantage since the words came out much more clearly.
(Valeria Boi as Suor Angelica)
“Gianni Schicchi” continued its initial success, when first staged at New York’s metropolitan Opera in 1918, with BDL’s theatre audience. Its theme of a double swindle, first with Schicchi impersonating a dead Buoso Donati to re-write an unpopular will and second with Schicchi double-crossing Donati’s family members in order to benefit his own must be close to the heart of many Italians, even today, in a country where inheritance laws based on “la Legittima” are often so much at odds with family realpolitik.
What can be said about the performances? That the singers were excellent, that the pianist was the best I’ve seen accompanying these mini-opera productions, that the audience fully entered into the spirit of the evening and that we left the theatre with light hearts and grateful that this part of the world does not have to seek very far to find such excellences in musical performances!