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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Gianni Schicchi
Gianni Schicci - Bruno de Simone (bass)
Lauretta - Francesca Longari (soprano)
Zita - Anna Maria Chiuri (mezzo-soprano)
Rinuccio - Dave Monaco (tenor)
Nella - Costanza Fontana (soprano)
Gherardo - Antonio Garés (tenor)
Gherardino - Matteo Lantieri (treble)
La Ciesca - Giada Frasconi (mezzo-soprano)
Simone - Eugenio di Lieto (bass)
Marco - Min Kim (baritone)
Betto di Signa - Francesco Venuti (bass)
Maestro Spinelloccio/ Ser Amantio di Nicolao Enrico Marabelli (baritone)
Pinellino - Shuxin Li (bass)
Guccio - Adam Jon (baritone)
Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Valerio Galli
rec. Florence, 2019
DYNAMIC 37874 DVD [54 mins]

The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is an annual opera festival in Florence, and a major event in the international opera calendar. This video recording was made shortly after the director of music, Fabio Luisi, resigned suddenly, with three years left on his contract. He cited reasons of unacceptable political influence on programming and general direction in the festival (not unknown in opera circles) and left to pursue his many other musical interests.

Gianni Schicchi, the finale of Puccini’s wonderful Trittico, is a ‘one-acter’ based on a tale from Dante’s Divina Commedia (the original Gianni apparently died in 1280). Achieving true comic excellence in opera performance is notoriously difficult, and sadly, the comedy here is far from divine. As you’d expect, the whole thing is competently done; but 15 minutes in, you’ve heard barely a titter from the Florentine audience in the Teatro di Maggio Musicale.

On the plus side, Francesca Longari sings the shows one massive ‘hit’, ‘O mio babbino caro’, very nicely, though of course it’s a gift of a number for any self-respecting diva. It is an irony that many people who know the aria but not the opera assume that it is a love-song – which in a sense it is, but one designed to manipulate her father’s emotions, and not addressed to her lover. There are several layers of irony here; one being that, while this is a genuinely beautiful song, it reminds us what a past-master in emotional manipulation was its composer!

Bruno di Simone has made a specialism of this part, so his characterisation is secure and finely tuned. But the lesser parts, the ‘family’ roles, are far less convincing, and mostly they resort to grotesque over-acting to do their stuff. To be fair, in opera, emotions, reactions, gestures very often need to be exaggerated somewhat; but that is very different from ‘hamming’ everything to the extreme, which is what happens in this production. The deafening silence from the audience says it all, really.

The orchestral playing is less than distinguished, and decidedly scrappy in places; this may be one symptom of Luisi’s departure. Whatever it is, it doesn’t sound like the orchestra of a major opera theatre at its best.

My recommendation would still be to go for the great Glyndebourne 2005 staging on Opus Arte, with Alessandro Corbelli proving a masterly Schicchi, and characterful singing and acting from a talented cast, including Felicity Palmer and Marie McLaughlin among the group of grasping relations. Jurowski directs superbly, with fine playing from his LPO.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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