Available until: 7th March 2021
Il trittico is a series of three very different short operas by Giacomo Puccini. It is common for them to be performed together, just like Cavalleria rusticana is performed with Pagliacci, and Puccini did intend for them to be performed together. Il tabarro and Suor Angelica are serious dramas, set in a barge on a river and a convent. Gianni Schicchi is a family comedy. If they were composed by different people, they would probably never have become a trittico. Sometimes just two of the operas are presented rather than all three. Sometimes they present the two serious operas. Sometimes they leave out Suor Angelica as many see it as the weakest. Sometimes Il tabarro is left out as it is a darker and nastier opera than the other two.
The operas are sometimes paired with different operas. The Royal Opera has a previous production of Gianni Schicchi which was performed with Ravel’s L’heure espagnole which meant there were two comedies performed together. Glyndebourne did a production of Gianni Schicchi and it was performed with an opera called The Miserly Knight by Rakhmaninov which is very different in character and music from Gianni Schicchi. Il tabarro was paired with lots of different plays when it was part of Opera North’s Eight Little Greats season (which also featured Pagliacci but not Cavalleria rusticana). I have seen the Glyndebourne one on DVD, but I have only heard about the others.
This time, Royal Opera has put all three operas together as Puccini wanted them to be performed and it is really good to see them in the way Puccini intended for them to be performed. We thought about reviewing them separately, but as Puccini wanted them to be performed together, he would probably want them to be reviewed together too.
Il tabarro is very dark. Literally. It is quite difficult to see what is going on even on a screen, but D. M. Wood’s lighting lets you see just about well enough. Ultz has designed the set as a barge with the tow path next to it. It looks great and it works very well for the play, but it was a bit scary watching the curtain calls because it was obviously really difficult for people to step down from the barge to the tiny strip at the front of the stage, especially for the people who were wearing heels.
Lucio Gallo is an intense, angry Michele, but I can understand why really. It is very bad to murder people, but it is natural to be angry when your wife is unfaithful. Eva-Maria Westbroek expresses Giorgetta’s emotions really well. She seems bored but quite uncaring. Aleksandrs Antonenko shows a lot more passion as Luigi and it’s easy to see why he is so attractive to Giorgetta. There are lots of Young Artists and ROH regulars in the cast too and Ji-Min Park stands out as the Song Seller because he seems so lovely and it is really good to see some loveliness in this opera. I would buy a song from him.
Suor Angelica seems to be set in an orphanage. There are several beds onstage, each with a child in. Most of the children look unhappy, but there is one really sweet little boy who seems to be smiling when the naughty nurses were told off. Miriam Buether’s set is beautiful with its high ceiling and arched doorway, but everything inside it looks quite plain and cramped.
It is a sad story, just like Il tabarro, but the atmosphere is very different. Il tabarro was full of hardness and hate. There is a lot of sadness in Suor Angelica and not everyone is kind, but there seems to be a lot of love in the production, even if most of it comes from Suor Angelica herself.
In the title role, Ermonela Jaho radiates warmth and, when the story allows it, joy. She seems good without being perfect. Contralto Anna Larsson is brilliant as the Princess. Her low notes have great power and great beauty. She is imposing at first, with her incredible height, her indigo clothes which contrasts with the white the nuns are wearing and her rather exaggerated characterisation, which I’m sure was intentional, but her performance ends up being very moving. Irina Mishura is a stern Abbess (a big contrast from her relaxed Frugola in Il tabarro) and I love the way the Women of the Royal Opera Chorus, who are playing nuns, react to everything in a very individual way.
Gianni Schicchi is actually quite dark and nasty if you think about it but it’s written as a comedy and Gianni Schicchi is such a cheerful character after so much sadness it feels like literal comic relief. I didn’t realise before, but he’s actually based on a real person and the story is based on a real incident. The opera is set up in a character called Buoso’s bedroom. He is dying and the other characters are hanging round, feeling terribly sad he’s going to die. But really, they are all hoping to inherit his money. John Macfarlane’s set is just on the right side of being a little bit tasteless. My mum thinks it is the same production as when Gianni Schicchi was paired with L’heure espagnole as it has the same crew and some of the same cast,
The title role is played by Lucio Gallo who was also Michele in Il tabarro. It is a big role vocally and I think it is usually played by older singers (and he’s also supposed to be 50) so it was nice to see a younger singer in the role even though he must have been very young when his daughter Lauretta was born. Mr Gallo is energetic and fun and his voice is easily strong enough for the role.
Lauretta and Rinuccio provide most of the genuine emotion in the opera, and Ekaterina Siurina and Francesco Dimuro sing really beautifully and bring out the emotion. Ms Siurina’s ‘O mio babbino caro’ is exquisite. The rest of the cast are caricatures but they characterise them really well. Nicky Gillibrand’s costumes are very funny and tell you so much about the characters even before you see what they’re like. Gwynne Howell (Simone), Marie McLaughlin (La Ciesca) and Jeremy White (Betto) are just some of the great performers and Peter Curtis (Buoso) also deserves a mention. He might not do any singing but that doesn’t mean his role is easy.
Three shows is a long evening but you can rent it now and watch it as many times as you like before it’s taken down so you don’t need to watch all of them on the same day.