What’s the connection between a barge on the River Siene and a convent in Tuscany? Puccini of course – Opera North/Jac van Steen Review

In actual fact there is little that connects a barge and a convent together. And yet, these are the 2 settings for 2 of his operas in Il Trittico (The Triptych). Il Trittico combines 3 very different mini operas of about an hour long each, performed together over one night. Il Tabarro (The Cloak) is a melodrama, Sour Angelica (Sister Angelica) an intense tragedy and finally, Gianni Schicchi (name of main character) is a raucous comedy. The 3 one act operas contrast sharply to one another, but come together to form a whole.

Opera North put on a production of the first 2 in the trio; Il Tabarro and Sour Angelica.

If you’re a fan of Puccini, like me, and have heard some of his greatest hits, like La Boheme, Tosca and Turandot, then you’re in for a surprise. Il Trittico is not full of great sweeping arias and choruses like La Boheme. The music is far for atmospheric, like it’s trying to bring to life the setting of the opera through sound. The reason for this is because Puccini was heavily influenced by Debussy’s opera Pelleas et Melisende (Pelleas and Mellisende) first performed in 1902, and Debussy’s style in general. Wagner and Verdi operas can get very loud and are full of great tunes and sweeping arias. The musical setting of Pelleas et Mellisende was very different, because it has very little of this. This forced Puccini to think in a different way, bringing us the music of Il Trittico.

That isn’t to say Il Trittico has none of the characteristic Puccini arias, it does. O Mio Babbino Caro, an audience favourite, comes from Gianni Schicchi. Il Tabarro has a few as well, like “I sacchi in groppa e giù la testa a terra”, a rather depressing aria about how men are required to bend their backs in work and that there is no joy in life. Shortly after this comes the central duet (“È ben altro il mio sogno” between the lovers Luigi and Giorgetta, singing about their home town. This is just pure Puccini, and when you get to it, a feeling of “finally!!!” will probably go through your head, as it did me. Credits to Giselle Allen, David Butt Philip and the orchestra who lathered the audience with pure Puccinian joy.

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Tristram Kenton

Sour Angelica is curiously devoid of any big arias, until the very end. Senza Mamma ends the opera, a gut wrenching aria where Sister Angelica pours out her heart upon hearing some devastating news. Anne Sophie Duprels gave the performance of the evening, delivering a heart breaking rendition of the aria. When walking out the theatre I noticed a few people wiping tears from their eyes. I also want to single out Patricia Bardon who was brilliant as the Princess.

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Tristram Kenton

The playing, singing and sets were all brilliant, making for a well polished and mesmerising performance. Brilliant stuff.

14/10/16

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