If you are an operagoer, you must see Il Trittico at the Royal Opera House. Catch it before it closes on the 27th of September. It is the first time in 45 years that it has been shown at Covent Garden in its entirety, as three ‘one act’ operas.
This work was premiered in 1918 at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. The three pieces ‘Il Tabarro’, Suor Angelica’ and ‘Gianni Schicchi’ were intended to be performed together as a ‘triptych’. Now that I have seen the full program, I regret that they are so rarely performed together. It is essential to see these operas as a full set. They are three very different pieces comprising of two dramatic operas and ending with a comic and light hearted opera. Impressively, during the course of one evening, a viewer is exposed to all aspects of the human condition: poverty, hard work, marriage, passion, jealousy and adultery, loneliness, aging, loss of a child, religion, spirituality, isolation, death, murder, suicide, family, inheritance, greed, manipulation, charisma…and happiness.
The first piece ‘Il Tabarro’, is a starkly realistic piece set on a claustrophobic barge in Paris. The main theme of this opera is marriage and adultery, and the failure of a couple to live together after the death of their child. The set design by Ultz is excellent, and includes actors in the background trudging along the Seine against a dark background. One weak point, is that the character Michele does not wear the cloak on his shoulders when he opens it to reveal the corpse of Luigi. In my view the effect would have been stronger and more in line with the symbol of the cloak. Dutch soprano, Eva Marie Westbroek however, was perfect in the role of Giorgetta, the main female character.
‘Suor Angelica’, an opera featuring exclusively female voices, is probably the less entertaining of the three, but it is extremely moving. Ermonela Jaho, sang Sister Angelica, who killed herself when she learned about the death of her son, with extreme purity and a great deal of emotion. Here again the set design was pure and simple, perfect for conveying the close atmosphere of the convent.
Finally, the last piece, ‘Gianni Schicchi’, is one of the funniest operas. An agitated Italian family consisting of several eccentric characters, attempt to find ways to share an inheritance. Schicchi, a peasant and the main character, has a plan… The set design is updated to the 20th century and is colourful with a retro look, adding to the whole charm of the story.
The conductor, Antonio Pappano, gave us a memorable performance. A real tribute to Puccini’s genius.
PS: I love the image created for the opera by Dewynters: each portrait of Puccini is manipulated to reflect the style of each opera. See: http://www.roh.org.uk/whatson/production.aspx?pid=16841