Puccini Il Trittico, Royal Opera House
Wednesday 14 September 2011
The accepted wisdom on Puccini’s trio of one-acters, Il Trittico, is that Gianni Schicchi is the masterpiece, Suor Angelica of very particular and questionable taste, with Il Tabarro, all shadow and melodrama, bringing up the rear. But should we now, in the light of Richard Jones’ revelatory staging of the central “altarpiece”, be revising assessments? Yes, yes, and yes.
You know from the moment the curtain goes up on Suor Angelica that Jones has cracked it. Miriam Buether’s striking set reveals a hospital ward of sick children, the sisters of mercy busily in attendance. As Sister Angelica (Ermonela Jaho) sits alone at the nurse’s station a very pale little boy approaches, a portent of terrible secret, her loss, and her sin. Never mind the words (the overworked libretto is something of an embarrassment in this first scene), the atmosphere is expectant, the orchestral detail beautifully choreographed.
And then comes Sister Angelica’s visitor – The Princess, her aunt - haughty and richly attired and in the person of Anna Larsson (marvellous) towering above her as only one’s nemesis can. The scene between them is electrifying, Angelica’s last hopes for her son dashed, and Jaho delivers the aria (“Senza mamma”) with bone-shaking intensity finding only a semblance of release in that seraphic final note. How I would love to see her Butterfly.
I wont reveal Jones’ brilliant solution to the opera’s unsettling dénouement but I will say that true to form he turns the kitsch religious symbolism on its head and intensifies a now credible tragedy by ingeniously replicating the moment that Sister Angelica’s illegitimate child was taken from her. Trust me, you’ll never see a finer production of the opera.
The clunky Il Tabarro lives only fleetingly in the memory though that, too, was accomplished in its way with furtive figures of the night beautifully etched into the stage narrative. Eva-Maria Westbroek and Aleksandrs Antonenko lustily voiced their dreams of a Parisian getaway and Antonio Pappano lavished care and affection and thunderous affirmation on every note.
Lucio Gallo was much more effective as the scheming Gianni Schicchi than he was as the cuckolded barge-owner and Jones’ gaudy and grubby 1960s staging, once again spot-on in its casting, served the comedic precision of the piece well. The sight of the deceased Buoso Donati’s hand stiffly protruding through the floorboards in a last bid for attention was the exclamation mark Dante didn’t reckon on.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 2 Tower Bridge glass walkway 'smashed' by night-time visitor dropping bottle of beer
- 3 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Christmas 2014: The three most intriguing celebrity panto appearances
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Beyonce '7/11' music video: Star bounces on bed and films daughter Blue Ivy in lo-fi homage to viral video
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage from Lana Del Rey rape video
X Factor 2014 results: Only The Young leave show in double elimination weekend
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services