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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Opera Review: Three on a Match

Il Trittico at the Metropolitan Opera.
by Paul Pelkonen
Barge-music: Juan Pons in Il Tabarro, Part I of Il Trittico.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2007 The Metropolitan Opera.

Long before Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez brought Grindhouse to your local movie theater, Giacomo Puccini conceived the idea of three disparate operas, performed together in the course of one evening. The three operas have had mixed fortunes since their 1918 premiere. They have been performed together, seperately, and paired off with works by other composers (Suor Angelica has been paired with Salome!). With this spiffy new Met production by Broadway director Jack O'Brien, this new Trittico scores three solid goals over the course of a long evening.

Il Tabarro is Puccini at his rawest: a shocking murder-opera set aboard a Parisian barge. As the cuckolded husband turned kiiler, baritone Juan Pons was sure and steady, a mix of raging passions and icy calculation. The performance completed Pons' own triptych for the 2006-2007 season, following his earlie, magnificent runs in Rigoletto and Andrea Chenier.

Salvatore Licitra sang well and choked magnificently as Luigi--not a bad thing for a character who gets graphically strangled to death. Trapped between these two strong male leads, soprano Maria Ghuleghina held her own. Her performance was a heady mix of sex, resignation, and, at the denouement, real horror.
Barbara Frittoli in Suor Angelica, Part II of Il Trittico.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2007 The Metropolitan Opera.
Barbara Frittoli sang the title role in Suor Angelica, the second panel of Puccini's triptych. Angelica is a western Butterfly--another in a long string of self-sacrificing Puccini heroines. Frittoli was in good, keen voice throughout this difficult opera, riding the character's emotional roller coaster and bringing out the depth behind the nun's wimple. This underrated opera (Puccini's favorite of the three) is one of the most powerful stage works about religion in the operatic canon.

The all-female cast and chorus (featuring Wendy White as the Monitor and Stephanie Blythe as the Princess) were excellent. The transcendence at the end evoked both Wagner'sParsifal and the headier passages of the Verdi Requiem. James Levine and the orchestra seemed to get lost in Puccini's shimmering textures. (They tend to do the same thing in Act III of Parsifal, so maybe it's the subject matter.)

Con and games: Alessandro Corbelli does the hustle in Gianni Schicchi.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2007 The Metropolitan Opera.
In the title role, Alessandro Corbelli anchored the robust, ribald performance of Gianni Schicchi. This opera turns on its title character, a lovable rogue who bilks a greedy but respectable family out of their inheritance. But the ensemble cast was loaded with strong performances. Stephanie Blythe (who had also appeared in Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica, completing the hat trick for the evening) was hilarious as Zita, one of the more obnoxious family members.

Massimo Giordano gave a strong performances as Runuccio, the opera's young, callow hero. His love interest, Lauretta was sung by the capable soprano Olga Mykytenko, making her company debut in the role. Her liquid "Io ma babbino, caro" brought down the house. The entire performance bristled with snappy delivery ad good humor--a highlight being the use of the house "Met Titles" to express a particularly vulgar Italian curse word as "&;@#$%!"

The Met Orchestra played particularly well under the direction of James Levine, bringing out the subtle background colors of Il Tabarro, the delicate textures of Suor Angelica, and the knockout comic punch of Schicchi. Each production aimed for realism and a separate conception, yet the performances brought out the definite connection which Puccini was trying to express. One can ask nothing more from these three operas, except to wish that their return to the repertory is a permanent one.

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