The Puccini triptych is an absolute triumph

Francesca Chiejina as Sister Genovieffa in the Scottish Opera production of Puccini’s Suor Angelica – Scottish Opera/James Glossop

Each of the three one-act plays that make up Puccini’s The Trittico is a perfectly crafted masterpiece, and they are boldly contrasted: Il tabarro (The Cloak), a tale of passionate love that ends in tragedy; Suor Angelica, a fearful confrontation in a nunnery; and Gianni Schicchi, a comedy about greed, deceit and deceit. Puccini wanted all three to be performed together, but this is a major challenge, and over the years two of the three have often been performed together, or one of them with another one-act play.

Scottish Opera’s new production presents the entire trilogy in one long evening and the result is an absolute triumph. Each opera hits a precise point of local color and human emotion, aided by Charles Edwards’ vivid designs and Hannah Clark’s costumes (wild and hilarious in Gianni Schicchi). A barge slides onto the quay at the beginning of Il Tabarro, the murky water reflecting the Parisian sunset. A gray hallway next to the chapel in the nunnery with endless stairs leading up to the nuns’ rooms creates the oppressive world of Suor Angelica (with a ray of light from the garden). A ramshackle apartment stuffed with papers and posters for 20 peoplethCentury Florence, is the home of the dying Buoso Donati in the final episode. A ray of sunshine and the longing for home are the threads that connect the stories.

Director David McVicar, meanwhile internationally successful, has returned from Glasgow himself. His Trittico is not a revolutionary invention: it is rigorously faithful to the texts (apart from a leap of a few centuries in Gianni Schicchi and the contemporary parallel of a baby separated from its unmarried mother at the beginning of Suor Angelica). But it’s observant, sensitive to every plot twist, and creates utterly memorable sets. He elicits fully developed characterizations from his singers, most notably the stunning soprano Sunyoung Seo, who takes on both Giorgetta in Il tabarro and the title role in Suor Angelica.

She has an almost hysterical fervor in her voice when Giorgetta is torn apart by her passion for Luigi (the excellent Viktor Antipenko) or haunted by the memory of her son, snatched from her in Suor Angelica. Her confrontation with her aunt the princess (the haughty Karen Cargill, relentless, chin up) is agonizing, and no moment is quite as touching as the dying Angelica and the vision of her little child falling to the ground together.

The intense emotional impact of this opera needs to be unleashed, and here the audience laughed at Gianni Schicchi from the very first moment and was enraptured throughout. Roland Wood, who had been the murderous launch owner Michele in Il Tabarro, was transformed into a sour, quick-witted Gianni Schicchi, who cheats the greedy Buoso Donati family of their inheritance. Francesca Chiejina changed from the shepherd sister Sister Genovieffa to his innocent daughter Lauretta in Schicchi, whose O mio babbino caro is the hit of the evening.

This is a highly professional ensemble show, with the Scottish Opera Orchestra fully commanding Puccini’s orchestration under Stuart Stratford’s firm but occasionally quite deliberate conducting.

In Glasgow, March 15th and 18th; Edinburgh, March 22nd and 25th

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *