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Giacomo PUCCINI (1887-1924)
Il Trittico - three one-act operas:
Il Tabarro (‘The Cloak’) (1916)
Michele - Alberto Mastromarino (baritone)
Giorgetta - Amarilli Nizza (soprano)
Luigi - Rubens Pelizzari (tenor)
Suor Angelica (‘Sister Angelica’) (1918)
Suor Angelica - Amarilli Nizza (soprano)
La zia principessa - Annamaria Chiuri (alto)
La badessa - Elisa Fortunati (mezzo)
Gianni Schicchi (1918)
Gianni Schicchi - Alberto Mastromarino (baritone)
Lauretta - Amarilli Nizza (soprano)
Zita - Annamaria Chiuri (alto)
Rinuccio - Andrea Giovannini (tenr)
Gherardo - Alessandro Cosentino (tenor)
Nella - Tiziana Tramonti (soprano)
Gherardino - Grigorij Filippo Calcagno (soprano)
Notary - Alessandro Busi (baritone)
Coro Lirico Amadeus – Teatro Comunale di Modena
Orchestra della Fondazione Arturo Toscanini/Julian Reynolds
rec. live, Teatro Comunale di Modena, 8 February 2007

Puccini was always adamant in his preference for all three of the one-act operas that comprise Il trittico to be performed together. That’s how they are in this 2007 Modena production. From the start he had recognized the essential synergy of the brilliant contrasts of melodrama, sentiment and comedy when the trio is presented as an entity across a single evening. Many producers, daunted by a very long evening, made even longer by extended intervals necessary for the changing of very different sets, have been tempted into splitting and pairing them with other short operas.
In this Modena production Amarilli Nizza appears in all three operas; as the faithless wife Giorgetta in Il tabarro, as Suor Angelica and as Gianni Schicchi’s daughter Lauretta. Alberto Mastromarino is the jealous husband, Michele in Il tabarro and as Gianni Schicchi.
The opening opera, Il tabarro is a murky tale of jealousy and murder set around a barge moored on the Seine in the shadow of Notre Dame. The Modena opera set is imaginative. Notre Dame and Paris are unseen. Instead Michele’s barge is shown moored beneath a bridge which dominates the stage with just a portion of the riverbank in the background. This accentuates the plot’s claustrophobic atmosphere in which Giorgetta longs to escape the drudgery of her miserable life by running away from her older husband. When she does this is only to have him murder her lover and hide the corpse under his cloak for Giorgetta to discover in the powerfully dark ending. Nizza’s Giorgetta is a compelling strumpet, apache-like in dress, showing plenty of voluptuous leg. Her singing is emotionally compelling too and she is well matched by Pelizzari’s ardent Luigi. However it is Mastromarino as the vengeful Michele who steals this show: tender in his memories of happier times with Giorgetta and of their baby before it died, and a volcano of anger and malice towards the errant lovers.
The sweetly sentimental centre-piece of the triptych, Suor Angelica, was Puccini’s declared favourite of the three operas. Alas, it is the one that is most likely to be cut by insensitive producers. Puccini was especially attracted to the opportunity of writing solely for female voices. The nuns’ choruses are particularly memorable and the ladies of the Coro Lirico Amadeus distinguish themselves. Indeed, this Suor Angelica is the highlight of the triptych.
The fluid Abbey set, is imposing, its high vaulting tending to dwarf the nuns, adding a different sense of claustrophobia. It imprisons Sister Angelica and her colleagues within their duties and devotions. As Suor Angelica, Amarilli Nizza mesmerizes. This is particularly true of the purity of her silken legato in “Senza mamma, o bimbo, tu sei morto!” as she grieves over her illegitimate baby torn from her when she was condemned to life as a nun. Later she is just as enthralling in passionate atonement for committing suicide in her grief-stricken madness. Judging by her tear-stained face as she takes her curtain calls, Nizza was emotionally swept away singing Sister Angelica. In contrast and as the ruthless unforgiving Princess, Annamaria Chiuri, dressed all in a black and raven-like headdress, is splendidly chilling.
The action of this production of the final part of the triptych, Gianni Schicchi, is updated from 14th century Florence to the 19th century. The slapstick nature of the action has prompted the designer towards caricature with costumes that make the women, with their hugely extravagant hairstyles, look like refugee witches from The Wizard of Oz. Caricature may work well for the grasping, scheming relatives but not when it is extended to Lauretta and her lover Rinuccio. Rinuccio looks like some clown and Lauretta is dressed and made to act like a spoilt little girl. She is required to sing the show-stopping ‘O mio babbino caro’ simpering and batting her eyelids as she pleads for Schicchi’s help to save her love-match, thus completely ruining the pathos of the aria. Actually Nizza, here in soft, pliant tones, delivers this aria sweetly – just shut your eyes when it comes. Alberto Mastromarino’s Gianni Schicchi is a rotund sly rogue. His mordant ‘In testa la cappellina’ is a delight. In it he mischievously convinces the doctor, and then the notary, that he is Donati the old man who has died and whose will causes all, the trouble. Andrea Giovanni as Rinuccio, Lauretta’s lover, labouring against the stupidity of his costume, is nobly fervent in his aria in praise of Florence, ‘Firenze è come un albero fiorito’. Annamaria Chiuri as Rinuccio’s awful, overpowering, Aunt Zita, is splendidly snobbish and viper-like. The other relatives solo or in chorus are equally malevolent and repulsive in action and voice.
This Gianni Schicchi is the weakest link in this Trittico. Preferable is the 2004 Glyndebourne production with Alessandro Corbelli in the title role on Opus Arte OA0918D.
Praise must be given to Julian Reynolds for his music direction. He empathises strongly with Puccini’s Late Romantic idiom, pointing up the melodrama and the drama. He gives sensitive accompaniments to the “big” numbers and catches well the Debussy-like river motif. All the little felicities of Il tabarro are tellingly done. Listen to the bells of the surrounding Paris churches, the bugle calls in the distant barracks and the sound, in the orchestra, as the wife of one of the stevedores sings of her pet. In the opening pages of Suor Angelica, Reynolds nicely evokes the peace and tranquillity of the convent, its fountain and birdsong.
This Il trittico has much to recommend it. Pity about the production design of Gianni Schicchi.
Ian Lace


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