Opera review: Puccini’s Il Trittico

Teatro del Maggio: wildly different pieces united by the theme of death

Harry Cochrane
December 3, 2019 - 12:12

The music critic Edward Joseph Dent did not think the one-act opera a successful genre. He recognised only two famous and successful examples, Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana, and even they were only acceptable if performed together. It is little surprise, then, that Puccini’s Il Trittico (The Tryptych) is rarely staged in full, for of its three constituent one-act operas, none of them are the aforementioned two.




Il tabarro, Teatro del Maggio, ph. Michele Monasta




Il Trittico is composed of Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, three wildly different pieces united by the theme of death: violent, transcendent or comic. Under the direction of Denis Krief, the first two pieces were also united by Maria José Siri, who sang Giorgetta, the stifled young bargewife in Il Tabarro, before wimpling up for the eponymous lead in Suor Angelica. Coquettish in the former, heartbreaking in the latter, warmth ran through her stage presence and a voice for which no pitch or volume ever seemed an effort. Equally powerful were Il Tabarro’s male leads, however, as the husband Michele (Franco Vassallo) moved from sympathetic to murderous, while Angelo Villari’s brooding, unshaven Luigi made for one of the more menacing romantic tenors.




Suor Angelica, Teatro del Maggio, ph. Michele Monasta




Suor Angelica, which features not a single male voice, was awakened from a static, even saccharine opening by the arrival of Suor Angelica’s aunt. Anna Maria Chiuri’s Zia Principessa chilled and thrilled the auditorium with cold fury at her niece, anger at her family’s dishonour only hardened by guilt, despite herself, over the loss of Angelica’s illegitimate child. The child appeared at a Henry Jamesian finale as Angelica, drunk on poison, crawls towards his ghostly, angelic outline. The applause for Siri was deservedly thunderous, and the applause for the Zia Principessa drowned out the click of her heels as she strode back onto stage, still in fearsome character.




Gianni Schicchi, Teatro del Maggio, ph. Michele Monasta




Welcome levity was provided by Gianni Schicchi, a tale of buffoonery based on an episode in Dante, whose bust glowered out from the background. The six or seven loveless members of the Donati family were all played with exquisite comic timing, but not all of them with quite the vocal power to project over Puccini’s orchestration. The set was trashed and smashed with enough glee, however, to keep the audience firmly on side.




Il tabarro/Suor Angelica/Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini 

Teatro del Maggio

November 15, 17, 20-23

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