It’s a treat to see Puccini’s trilogy of one-act operas, ‘Il Trittico,’ all together because although they were originally intended to be performed in order. Today, out of time considerations they rarely are. Typically, it is “Suor Angelica” (Sister Angelica) that gets ditched because of its sentimentality and the limitations of its all female voice cast.
The trilogy issue has actually dogged the work since its inception. Puccini’s original pitch was discouraged by his publisher Ricordi, because a triple bill meant three very different sets of considerations, voices and audiences, and so tripled the risk associated with new works. This feedback made Puccini put his plans on the back burner to pick them up again only after Ricordi’s death. He worked on them through the difficult years of World War I and it had its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in December 1918.
The opening piece, “Il Tabarro” (The Cloak), is opera verismo. It deals with a passionate love triangle with a tragic ending, including with a dark, graphically macabre final scene.
Set on a barge on the river Seine in Paris, the piece expresses Puccini’s love for Parisian city life, with a nice touch of a motor horn which he worked into the score. Singers include Mark Delavan, Salvatore Licitra and Anja Kampe.
“Suor Angelica” tells the heart-rending tale of a cloistered nun with a worldly secret. Puccini’s understanding of real convent life for this opera came from the fact that one of his sisters was a nun in a cloistered order in Tuscany. This much neglected masterpiece pours out Puccini’s love for his Roman Catholic faith; its meltingly beautiful melodies include the poignant “Senza Mamma." Sondra Radvanovsky sings the title role.
The romantic comedy “Gianni Schicchi,” which packs in a whole lot of action in its short duration is rooted in the traditional Italian commedia dell’arte genre, in which characters are often developed into full-blooded and believable figures. The trickster, a witty commoner who gulls the rich and steals money or property from them is a familiar figure from the commedia genre, and there is even a thumbnail sketch of him in Dante’s “Inferno.”
The opera is full of Tuscan references such as mention of the mill at Signa and the view of Florence from Schicchi’s window. It features Thomas Allen in the title role along with soprano Laura Tatulescu and tenor Saimir Pirgu.
L.A. Opera has once again turned to award winning film directors, with William Friedkin directing “Il Tabarro” and “Suor Angelica” and Woody Allen making his opera debut directing “Gianni Schicchi.” Tony Award-winning production designer Santo Loquasto who has worked on more than 20 Woody Allen films is the designer and James Conlon conducts the trilogy.
The production runs from Sept. 6-26. For more information and tickets, visit LAOPERA.com.