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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) IL TRITTICO: Il Tabarro (The Cloak); Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica)*; Gianni Schicchi. Roberto Alagna; Angela Gheorghiu; Carlo Guelfi; Maria Guleghina; Cristina Gallardo-Domâs; Bernadette Manca Di Nissa; Felicity Palmer; Neil Shicoff; José Van Dam; Tiffin Boys' Choir; London Voices; London Symphony Orchestra; Philharmonia Orchestra* conducted by Antonio Pappano EMI CDS5 56587 2 [52:56] [55:45] and [53:16]



This magnificent new Pappano release is a worthy successor to his 1997 recording of Puccini's La Rondine that won Gramophone's 'Record of the Year' accolade. Again, Alagna and Gheorghiu are starred but this time in an ensemble cast. The duo star only in Gianni Schicchi, as the young lovers, Rinuccio and Lauretta. In Il Tabaro they have a minor, background role as two lovers strolling along the banks of the Seine. Rather than weakening the production by having Gheorghiu singing the lead roles in all three operas, the notion of having three separate sopranos provides a welcome diversity of tone and that strengthens the whole.

I treasure those recordings of the three single-act operas made by EMI in the 1950s, that were gathered together in the box set released by EMI in 1992 (CMS 7 64165 2). Tito Gobbi was unforgettable as the tragic, tormented Michele in Il Tabarro and wryly comic as Gianni Schicchi; and Victoria De Los Angeles had a luminous beauty as Suor Angelica. This new complete recording of Il Tittico, however, must now be regarded as the benchmark recording.

Pappano again shows his mastery of the Puccini idiom. He breathes life and credibility into these three diverse stories, realising all Puccini's little, yet revealing subtleties and nuances and delivering beautifully structured performances that are ideally paced so that the emotional climaxes have tremendous power. He is aided by first class engineered sound with wide perspectives and dynamics. The opening of Il Tabarro, for instance, is a vivid evocation of evening on the banks of the Seine with the busy street-life of Paris, around Michele's barge, slowly winding down; just as the serenity of the convent gardens with its birdsong and fountains is magically captured at the beginning of Suor Angelica.

In Il Tabarro, Carlo Guelfi, as Michele, may not dispel memories of Gobi but he characterises very well the essential warmth of the cuckolded barge-master as well as his jealousy and cruelty. He makes his duet with his wife Giorgetta (Maria Guleghina) superbly poignant as he tries to make her remember their dead baby and the days when they were happy together. Guleghina and Shicoff (as Luigi, Giorgetta's doomed lover) are also well cast and convincing as they sing their duet wishing they could be free of Michele and his barge to enjoy life together in Paris.

The young Chilean soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domâs is a radiant Sister Angelica and she sounds rather younger than many sopranos who have approached this role. This is no bad thing because one can imagine a very young girl being led astray and having to pay the price of having an illegitimate baby by being banished to a nunnery. But Gallardo-Domâs shows not only Sister Angelica's kindness, warmth and compliance and piety, but also her defiance in the scene where she is rebuked by her icily implacable aunt, the princess (frostily sung by an appropriately imperious Bernadette Manca di Nissa). The climactic miracle scene, when after taking poison in a fit of madness, and appealing to the Virgin Mary, Sister Angelica is granted absolution and is reunited with her dead infant as she dies, is breathtakingly beautiful. I cannot remember having been as moved by this scene before - a tribute to Pappano's skill in treading the fine line between the beatific and the mawkish.

As Gianni Schicchi, José van Dam once again proves what a great singer/actor he is - all the wry cunning and sardonic wit implicit in this role is realised. Gheorghiu is beguiling, subtle and delicate in her big aria 'O mio babbino caro'. Alagna impresses with his enthusiastic paean to Florence in his aria 'Firenza è come un albero fiorito' (Florence is like a tree in flower). And together they sing radiantly of their love triumphing at the close of the opera. The supporting cast all shine as the greedy grasping relatives of the deceased Buoso Donati - all keen to get their hands on his wealth.

Recommended most strongly


Ian Lace

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Ian Lace

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