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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Gianni Schicchi - Opera in one act (1917/18)
Gianni Schicchi…Alessandro Corbelli
Zita, Buosco’s cousin…Felicity Palmer
La Ciesca, Marco’s wife…Marie McLaughlin
Rinuccio, Zita’s nephew…Massimo Giordano
Lauretta, Schicchi’s daughter…Sally Matthews
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
rec. live at Glyndebourne Opera House, 11 July 2004
Directed by Annabel Arden
DVD includes extras: cast gallery, illustrated synopsis and interviews
OPUS ARTE OA 0918 D [74:00]

 

 

This 2004 Glyndebourne production was staged with another one act opera - Rachmaninov’s The Miserly Night. Clearly there were practical considerations. For a start both operas could utilise more or less the same set thus saving time and money in scene changes in the small environment that is the Glyndebourne opera house.  Annabel Arden and Jurowski in their interviews point out certain similarities between the two operas including the fact that they both feature rich old men who disinherit their families: one dying at the end of the Rachmaninov and the other at the beginning of the Puccini. I do feel though that they make heavy weather when they attribute too dark an interpretation to the Puccini story-line suggesting something of a political statement, assuming something of a pre-taste of Mussolini’s Fascism; hardly, considering Gianni Schicchi was composed as early as (1917-18). Gianni Schicchi is, after all, essentially a black comedy after an episode in Dante’s Inferno in which reference is made to a Buoso Donati and a Gianni Schicchi, encountered in hell. Indeed, it will be recalled that the last words of the opera, directed to the audience by Schicchi, confirm that he has been sent to hell because he has cheated Donati’s relatives of their inheritance even though that old man had chosen to leave his wealth to a monastery.   

Gianni Schicchi is the final part of Puccini’s triptych of three one-act operas and it is on record that Puccini hated having them split and performed separately.  It has to be admitted, though, that Il Trittico has never been eagerly embraced by impresarios. Each opera lasts about an hour - that means a total of three hours not counting the two intermissions, making a long evening. Some have preferred to omit sweet sentimental Suor Angelica - Puccini’s declared favourite of the three. This is a pity because this quiet yet dark-edged centrepiece of the triptych is a vital component of the whole. It takes the listener more smoothly from the sombre lives and loves of the Paris barge people and the gruesome murder at the climax of Il Tabaro (The Cloak) to the broad comedy of Gianni Schicchi 

But to this production ... and what a joy it is.  The action and movements of the grasping, scheming relatives are choreographed cleverly for maximum comic effect. Their singing is very much ensemble so that they virtually become a chorus. And interestingly Puccini is here developing and refining his skills as a choral music writer, skills that would be further refined for his last opera Turandot, that followed Il trittico.  Slapstick humour leavens any darkness with the dead inert body of Donati being undignifiedly pulled and pushed around in his death bed as the relatives look furiously for his hidden will, and falling out of a cupboard where he has been hidden while Schicchi takes his place to dupe the notary, and the death bed being thrust hither and thither across the stage. The production is in modern dress – i.e. contemporary with Puccini’s era - rather than the original Puccini staging that was medieval Florentine

Alessandro Corbelli’s Gianni Schicchi is delightfully, slyly roguish, just short of going over the top. His mordant ‘In testa la cappellina’ in which he delights in his new-found power to convince the doctor and then the notary that he is Donati, is a delight. Massimo Giordano is a handsome brute of a Rinuccio and his aria in praise of Florence, ‘Firenze è come un albero fiorito’ rings out with heartfelt fervour. Felicity Palmer as his dreadful, snobbish Aunt Zita, is suitably overpowering in voice and action.   The show-stopping ‘O mio babbino caro’ is warmly and sympathetically delivered by Sally Matthews in the role of Schicchi’s daughter, Lauretta.

A delightful humorous and warm production of the final part of Puccini’s Il trittico. Pity we could not have had Il tabarro and the sublime Suor Angelica as well.

Ian Lace  

 

 



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