Trittico returns

1 Mar

Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s Trittico is one of the finest pieces of the work that the ROH has produced in recent years and it was high time for a revival.  Jones, together this time with Nicola Luisiotti, make these pieces seem like masterpieces – three perfectly paced, beautifully detailed miniatures that provide an outstandingly contrasted evening. While they do work as pieces on their own, somehow they fit together beautifully to make a satisfying whole.

Jones’s productions are among his finest. It’s possible to imagine other stagings being as effective but none significantly more so. He manages to rein in his trademark tics to the extent only that they feel appropriate and right.  He doesn’t try to unite the three operas artificially.  These are three different pieces and he makes the differences work.
In Tabarro, I love the way in which he catches the atmosphere of the slow Parisian evening, the passers by and the world going on outside (I’d missed or forgotten the way in which he undercuts the two lovers). You don’t sense a gap between the music and the production. And he builds up the tension in those swift final moments brilliantly.

The cast for Tabarro came in for some stick on the first night. They seemed pretty good for me. I preferred Patricia Racette as Giorgetta to the first run’s Eva Maria Westbroek – she’s a more understated performer, the voice, for me, more focussed. I thought that she acted the disappointed, frustrated wife marvellously, singing strongly, intensely. Carl Tanner as Luigi sounded fine until the very last notes of the duet with Giorgetta, when his voice seemed to desert him: I wonder if he was in best health. Before that, he’d been strong, ardent vocally. Maybe his acting of this rather difficult role wasn’t the strongest part of the evening. Perhaps I missed some of the sheer lushness that you can get in their duet, but it still packed a punch. Lucio Gallo as Michele strikes me as the most controversial piece of casting. He looks good – the declining, lean and hungry man – but vocally he simply doesn’t have the menace and the power of the jealousy that the role needs. If this returns (and please let it), can we have Mr Lukic?

Suor Angelica is the star of the staging with Jones treading absolutely the right balance of toughness and sentimentality. It’s a staging that makes you angry. The setting in the catholic children’s hospital is brilliant and it’s perfectly moved. It hinges, however, on the performance of Ermonela Jaho as Angelica. She is even better this time around. Her singing of Senza mamma was soft, wonderfully controlled, moving.  The scene with the Principessa unleashed, you felt, all the pent up anger and frustration of the last seven years. It’s one of the great interpretations of our day and I do hope that Ms Jaho will be back soon in more Puccini.

Anna Larsson struck me as even more effective as the Principessa than she had been in 2011 – there is less writhing, much more iciness and every look, every note spoke of her disdain for dealing with Angelica at all. The two struck sparks and the whole performance – beautifully detailed nuns, understated but very moving ending, struck me as one of the most powerful at the ROH in some time.  It made the work seem like a masterpiece, which I think perhaps it is.

I like Jones’s very funny, beautifully observed and timed production of Gianni Schicchi. It’s a gift of an opera and Jones seizes the opportunities to characterise all the individual relatives to perfection and he’s helped by fabulous performances from Elena Zilio as Zita, Marie McLoughlin as La Ciesca, Gwynne Howell las Simone and Jeremy White as Betto di Signa. Zilio, in particular, is a star in this sort of role.  The costumes are perfect and I loved the chaos at the beginning – the child running his car against the wall, the little girls getting in the way.

We had new lovers: Paola Fanale, ardent, a nice youthful tenor and good actor for Rinuccio, voice maybe just a tad small for the house; and Susanna Hurrell doing a very nice job indeed as Lauretta – singing sweetly and with the strength to make O mio babbino caro the highlight it should be.

Gallo is back as Schicchi. I enjoy his alertness, his intelligence and his great way with the words. It’s an understated performance and, ideally, you need a larger, fatter voice and a more exuberant personality – but maybe that would unbalance the rest of what is a tight, ensemble.  He’s the most controversial part of the casting and, maybe, you don’t have to double Michele and Schicchi.

The smaller roles in all the other operas were as well done as you’d expect with Jeremy White, Carlo Bosi and Irina Mishura impressing in their multiple roles, David Junghoon Kim excellent as the ballad seller, Lauren Fagan and Luis Gomes seizing their moment as the two lovers in Tabarro.

Nicola Luisiotti conducted idiomatically and at one with the production.  It was one of those where what you saw onstage reflected what you heard in the pit.  I didn’t miss Pappano. Orchestra sounded excellent to me.

It’s great to see these pieces again. They make a long evening and, interestingly, quite a few people didn’t come back for Schicchi – presumably because the reviews had been less than kind about Gallo and because Ms Jaho was so shattering. They missed an essential part of the evening. For all their differences, these three operas make a perfect whole and an evening that is more than the sum of its parts. Whatever individual imperfections there may have been, this was a hugely satisfying evening and I’d urge you to get along if you can.

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