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Power and Depth

Puccini's 'Il Trittico',
reviewed by REBECCA SCHMID

 

The Met's new production of Il Trittico [seen Saturday 12 December 2009] reaffirms its legacy as the house of choice for Puccini's longest and most complex operatic work.

Since its première there in 1918, the triptych of one-act operas has often been fragmented due to the difficulty of presenting a cohesive and appealing performance. The middle piece, Suor Angelica, has even been dropped on occasion because it is not easily compelling.

The Met has more than overcome these challenges for its current staging. In a feat of stamina, Patricia Racette sings all three leading roles.

Racette drew upon a wide palette of timbres and dramatic skills to convey the desperation of Giorgetta when her husband kills her lover in Il Tabarro, the grief of Sister Angelica upon learning of her son's death, and the coquettish Lauretta as she begs for her father's consent to marry Gianni Schicchi.

Patricia Racette as Angelica in New York Metropolitan Opera's production of 'Suor Angelica'. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard
Patricia Racette as Angelica in New York Metropolitan Opera's production of 'Suor Angelica'. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard

Although Racette's interpretation became somewhat affected as she moved into a high register in the pivotal aria of Suor Angelica, 'Senza Mamma', her lower range was consistently rich and moving. The sweetness of her voice found a better outlet in the fifteen-year-old Lauretta.

Stephanie Blythe, who also took on roles in every part of the opera, nearly stole the show. With a sumptuous voice that can only be compared to a chocolate layer cake, her singing reveals rock-solid technique and poise. Her musicianship as she blended with the orchestra in Suor Angelica was commanding enough to fill a house as big as the Met.

Stephanie Blythe as The Princess and Patricia Racette in the title role of New York Metropolitan Opera's production of 'Suor Angelica'. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard
Stephanie Blythe as The Princess and Patricia Racette in the title role of New York Metropolitan Opera's production of 'Suor Angelica'. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard

Replacing James Levine, who cancelled his engagement to attend to back surgery, was Stefano Ranzani, a young conductor who has made appearances at La Scala and in Zürich. The orchestra's playing was subdued yet carefully nuanced. Ranzani does not create as sentimental a mood as Levine, but provided attentive and stirring accompaniment to the singers. He was especially deft in Suor Angelica, drawing forth swelling phrases of great power and depth.

The production boasted a stellar supporting cast. Despite somewhat pinched upper notes due to a cold, Salvatore Licitra's lush spinto timbre still managed to evoke a visceral reaction as Luigi in Il Tabarro. Zeljko Lucic's baritone voice was rich and appropriately ominous as his enemy, Michele. Tenor Alessandro Corbelli's pure timbre had just the right weight for the role of Gianni Schicchi, and Saimir Pirgu was a serenely seductive Rinuccio.

Stephanie Blythe as Frugola and Patricia Racette as Giorgetta in New York Metropolitan Opera's production of 'Il Tabarro'. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard
Stephanie Blythe as Frugola and Patricia Racette as Giorgetta in New York Metropolitan Opera's production of 'Il Tabarro'. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard

An intricate set design by Douglas W Schmidt did full justice to all three operas. For Il Tabarro, Schmidt recreated a bank of the Seine at sundown with astounding accuracy. The water reflected the dark pink and purple hues as ship workers moved back and forth along the cobblestones, creating a sober mood perfectly in keeping with Puccini's score.

Suor Angelica was set in the grassy courtyard of a convent in Tuscany. Imposing architecture on all sides and stone benches set the tone for the repression and isolation that the opera sets out to portray.

A scene from New York Metropolitan Opera's production of 'Gianni Schicchi' with Patrick Carfizzi as Betto di Signa, Jennifer Check as Nella, Donato Di Stefano as Simone, Stephanie Blythe as Zita, Alessandro Corbelli as Gianni Schicchi, Patricia Risley as Ciesca, Jeff Mattsey (behind Patricia Risley) as Marco, and Keith Jameson as Gherardo. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard
A scene from New York Metropolitan Opera's production of 'Gianni Schicchi' with Patrick Carfizzi as Betto di Signa, Jennifer Check as Nella, Donato Di Stefano as Simone, Stephanie Blythe as Zita, Alessandro Corbelli as Gianni Schicchi, Patricia Risley as Ciesca, Jeff Mattsey (behind Patricia Risley) as Marco, and Keith Jameson as Gherardo. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard

No less impressive was the Florentine décor of Buoso Donati's bedroom in Gianni Schicchi. In a moment of glory, the stage transformed into a garden looking above the city as the young lovers Lauretta and Rinuccio sing Firenze da lontano ci parve il Paradiso ('Florence in the distance seemed just like paradise').

Copyright © 28 December 2009 Rebecca Schmid,
Syracuse, USA

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GIACOMO PUCCINI

GIANNI SCHICCHI

ITALY

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