Puccini: Il Trittico [Royal Opera House/Pappano] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: Opus Arte
- Blu-ray Release Date: July 31, 2012
- List Price: $29.99
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Giacomo Puccini was approaching the end of his composing career in 1918 when Il Trittico debuted in New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He wrote only one more opera, Turandot, that was left unfinished at his death six years later. Il Trittico consists of three one-act operas that could hardly be more different from each other. The first, Il Tabarro (The Cloak) is a dark story of a deadly love triangle set in early 20th century Paris involving Parisian barge owner Michele (baritone Lucio Gallo), his wife, Giorgetta (soprano Eva-Marie Westbroek) and handsome dock-hand Luigi (tenor Alexandrs Antonenko). Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica, played by soprano Ermonela Jaho) takes place in a French convent where the nun Angelica does penance for bearing a child out of wedlock. Her aunt, La Principessa (mezzo Anna Larsson) appears unexpectedly and reveals that Angelica’s child has died. In irrational despair, Angelica takes poison but before dying, sees a miraculous vision of her child. Gianni Schicchi, the only comedy of this trio, is lifted from Dante’s Divine Comedy. It weaves a twisted tale of the conniving Donati family who engage Schicchi (Lucio Gallo) to impersonate the recently deceased Buoso Donati so that he can “rewrite” the family’s will. The consequences are both hilarious and richly deserved. Gianni Schicchi has one of Puccini’s most beloved arias, “O mio babbino caro” sung by Schicchi’s daughter Lauretta (soprano Ekaterina Siurina).
We are in luck with this relatively rarely performed triple-header recorded during September 2011 performances at Covent Garden. The Royal Opera House forces are directed by an expert Puccinian, Antonio Pappano. Pappano gets a strong group of principals and supporting singers while director Richard Jones delivers traditional concepts (Il Tabarro) blended with updates (Suor Angelia, Gianni Schicchi) of these works.
As a group, these operas are intimate, chamber-like in their staging and action. The costumes vary in period with the usual modern updates for Suor Angelica (19th century France) and Gianni Schicchi (14th century Florence). The sets also vary from the depressing dock on the Seine in Tabarro to the brightly lit infirmary with the ironic addition of sick children to the convent (Angelica) and the comically decorated Florentine bedroom (Schicchi). Camera management of the stage and soloists is well-balanced. Colors vary from rather dark palette (Il Tabarro) to stunningly bright, (Suor Angelica and Giannic Schicchi). Where I was disappointed was the loss of detail in Il Tabarro, granted it is dark, in contrast with the stunning crispness and colors of the other two operas.
Puccini is all about creating a wall of sound that envelops the audience and which, at times, is Wagnerian in volume. Here, the balance between the large wall of orchestral sound and the singers on stage is quite true to what is heard in a real opera house. This effect is particularly true in Il Tabarro and fortunately, the leading voices are more than up to the task. The relatively quiet and delicate score of Suor Angelica and the multiple vocal lines of Gianni Shicchi have never sounded better to my ears.
Maestro Pappano offers a synopsis before each opera, a useful touch for newcomers to this triptych. A 10-minute look into Lucio Gallo’s performance day as he covers both the first and last operas, an unusual bit of casting. I should not complain but more background would have been welcome given that many viewers will be seeing these works for the first.
The Definitive Word
The first complete video of Il Trittico realized in 1981 by the Metropolitan Opera features a powerhouse performance by the legendary Renata Scotto in all three soprano roles. Its DVD issue is worth watching albeit with less than stellar sight or sound. There is only one other BD version (which I have not seen) but the strengths of this current production would make this Trittico a good choice for potential buyers. The singing is pretty potent when it needs to be, given the large voices heard in Il Tabarro, and delicate as befits Suor Angelica. Some might think that baritone Gallo looks too young and fit to be a convincing Michele but his passion is undeniable and he delivers a chilling monolog near the end, doing justice to one of Puccini’s darkest vocal moments. Conversely, Gallo falls a bit short of the outrageous spirito buffo essential for a convincing Gianni Schicchi. The real find of this BD is the Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho. She looks like a younger version of star Roumanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu and has great stage presence. From the conceptual standpoint, director Jones scores with both Il Tabarro and Gianni Schicchi; I found the children’s infirmary setting of Suor Angelica to be a bit offputting and final “vision” of the dead child rather unimaginative. Admittedly, I have never seen a perfect Il Trittico, but there is plenty to enjoy in each of these operas as offered by this new release.
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