‘Il Trittico’: A delightful opera trilogy

‘Il Trittico’: A delightful opera trilogy
Image: Source: Opera Australia

In 1904, Giacomo Puccini began his work on the three one-act operas that make up Il trittico (The Triptych): Il tabarro (The Cloak), Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica, a nun) and Gianni Schicchi.

These very distinct works are linked by a common theme: the cover-up of a death. New OA Artistic Director Jo Davies has unusually selected three separate directors to take on each of the opera’s in Puccini’s Il trittico.

Constantine Costi directs Il tabarro, which is set on a barge in the Seine River in Paris in 1910. Michele (Simon Meadows) is the barge owner, and his wife Giorgetta (Olivia Cranwell), bored with her old husband, is having an affair with the stevedore Luigi (Viktor Antipenko).

The Belleville duet between the soprano Giorgetta and the tenor Luigi is one of the most beautiful in Puccini’s oeuvre. Here, the lovers’ voices soar as they describe the Parisian suburb where they would love to live.

Meadows’ expressive baritone evoked spontaneous applause in the middle of a scene on opening night.

The supporting cast add their fine voices to this tragic scenario.

Frugola is sung by the impressive contralto Angela Hogan, while the outstanding soprano Stacey Alleaume sings the part of the young lover.

Other roles are wonderfully fulfilled by bass Richard Anderson (Talpa, the mole), and tenors Virgilio Marino (a stevedore), Iain Henderson (song seller) and Tomas Dalton (Tinca).

The Cloak figures in the story as the garment Michele once threw over his wife and now dead child to protect them. It takes on a very different role at the conclusion of this dark work, but you will have to go along to see how it is used.

Directed by Imara Savage, the second of these one-act operas is Suor Angelica, Puccini’s favourite, although not mine.

The marvellous soprano Lauren Fagan sings the role of Suor Angelica, a woman forced her to hide in a nunnery after she has an illegitimate child. Not even her family’s wealth can protect her from the shame and guilt of her immoral past.

The Princess, Angelica’s stern aunt, was impressively sung by contralto Angela Hogan.

Despite my preference for the other two “little” operas in Il trittico, the tragic conclusion in this work brought tears to my eyes. No spoiler alert – again.

Fagan is supported by a harmonious chorus of nuns and Mothers very Superior.

Brilliantly directed by Shaun Rennie, Gianni Schicchi is my favourite of the three operas, with a central character who is first cousin to Mozart’s Figaro.

Set in Medieval Florence, this farce centres on a family’s outrage when they discover that their relative has left everything he owns to a monastery. They call on Gianni Schicchi (Simon Meadows) to “fix” the will of their dead relation, and fix it he does, especially for himself.

And let’s not forget Stacey Alleaume’s breath-taking rendition of O mio babbino caro, which you will all be familiar with.

Set and costume designer for all three operas was by the very talented Michael Hankin, who produced particularly delightful comedic costumes for Gianni Schicchi which, together with the terrific direction, had us giggling all the way through to end the long evening (three hours and 22 minutes, including two 20-minute intervals) on a high.

Puccini would no doubt have been thrilled with the orchestra under the baton of Lydia Yankovskaya, who gave special weight to Puccini’s unique cadences.

Il trittico by Giacomo Puccini
Playing at Sydney Opera House until 19 July

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