Puccini trittico 808908

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
Il trittico (1918)
Three one-act operas: Gianni Schicchi, Il tabarro, Suor Angelica
Asmik Grigorian (Lauretta/Giorgetta/Suor Angelica), Misha Kiria (Schicchi), Karita Mattila (La Zia Principessa), Roman Burdenko (Michele), Joshua Guerrero (Luigi), Alexey Neklyudov (Rinuccio)
Wiener Philharmoniker/Franz Welser-Möst
Christof Loy (stage direction)
rec. live, August 2022, Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg, Austria
Reviewed in surround sound
Unitel Edition 808908 DVD [2 discs: 181]

Christof Loy’s 2022 Salburg Festival production of Il trittico (The Tryptich) plays the operas in the order different than the composer’s. The comic opera Gianni Schicchi is normally placed last, Il tabarro (The Cloak) first, and Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) second. There are no related plots, shared characters or settings. Puccini chose the gloomy river setting of Il tabarro, the convent setting of Suor Angelica with its all-female cast, and the cautionary tale of Gianni Schicchi from Dante’s L’Infernon to be as different as possible. The logic for the reordering might be to increase the focus on the lead female role across the triptych. The Festival favourite Asmik Grigorian stars in all three, and here her characters have a larger part in each successive opera, so she dominates increasingly over the evening.

Or perhaps the performance order does not greatly matter: Puccini even began each opera before knowing the subject of its successor in the scheme. He then thought the whole triptych too long, and reluctantly accepted that they would often be staged separately. Even now Gianni Schicchi is sometimes severed from the others and paired with another short opera (such as Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole or Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle). We should be grateful to get the complete Il trittico. One can actually watch them in any order, though they appear on the two discs in the Salzburg sequence.

There is a broadly common setting, a large high space with the minimum furniture and props that suggest each location. In Gianni Schicchi, we see the bed of the recently deceased Buoso Donati, a few chairs for the grasping family members, and a cabinet in which his will might be found. Barbara Droshin’s costumes, mostly modern, illustrate each character’s status. Thus the low-born Lauretta’s frock is unglamorous compared to the attire of the family she hopes to join. In the abundant space that remains, Loy directs his cast expertly, with wit and verve, aided by the swiftly shifting filming when things get hectic. The acting and singing are high-class. The pair of lovers, who have the lyrical gems to sing, are outstanding. Asmik Grigorian sings Oh mio babbino caro exquisitely, and Rinuccio (tenor Alexey Neklyudov) praises Florence with gleaming tone in Firenze é come un albero fiorito. Misha Kiria’s imposing Schicchi, large of frame and voice, makes a shrewd puppet-master who does little to hide his contempt for his puppets.

In Il tabarro, the vast stage of the Festspielhaus is a better riverside setting than it was a single room, especially with a substantial barge, a set of steps down to the dockside, and street lighting. But the naturalism ends there, as this dockside also has domestic furniture used for much of the action. Loy keeps that action lively and interesting for the first two-thirds, when all the characters are involved; it can sag otherwise. The last part, the ominous sequence of a duet of marital despair, then jealousy and murder, is more inexorable in mood and direction. Roman Burdenko as Michele sings superbly. He can generate some sympathy as the man who has lost his child and the love of his wife, but can also become vindictive and violent. Joshua Guerrero’s Luigi has a good line in despair in his declamatory arioso You’re right, it’s better not to think, vocally ringing and defiant. Grigorian is not the most coquettish Giorgietta imaginable, but she is carefree enough in the dancing scene. Then she becomes increasingly intense as her plight darkens. Coquette or victim, she sings superbly.

She has only the interval before donning her nun’s habit for Suor Angelica. The convent is the large empty room from Gianni Schicchi, with no cross or Marian images. There are tables and chairs, and several potted plants from which Angelica develops her potions, including her own poison. This, as we know, is the tear-jerker among the three operas. Grigorian really delivers with the emotional range of acting and the eloquence of singing. She sings Senza mamma with the affecting restraint it needs, but she pulls no punches at the despairing fate she suffers at the end. Her confrontation with the Princess, Angelica’s unforgiving aunt, is one of the composer’s great scenes, by far the most powerful in Il trittico. Its tremendous effect here is aided by the casting of the Princess, because Karita Mattila makes a formidable adversary. Christoph Loy also contrives an ending which offers a final twist of the knife.

The Vienna Philharmonic play very well indeed. Franz Welser-Möst shows himself a fine Puccini conductor, responding especially well to the impressionist atmosphere and verismo histrionics of Il tabarro. The surround sound has atmosphere, and the filming and editing – especially the close-up – put these dramas before you in a way even the best seat in the Festspielhaus might not match.

The main rival of this issue is the Opus Arte DVD from the Royal Opera House production (review), much praised when it came out in 2012. Pappano’s Puccini conducting is world-class, and each opera has a DVD to itself, so it is easy to change the order if you wish! (The Blu-ray version of this production fits on one disc.) But you must hear Asmik Grigorian in these roles if you can.

Roy Westbrook

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Full cast lists
Gianni Schicchi
Misha Kiria (Gianni Schicchi), Asmik Grigorian (Lauretta), Alexey Neklyudov (Rinuccio), Enkelejda Shkosa (Zita), Lavinia Bini (Nella), Caterina Piva (La Ciesca), Dean Power (Gherardo), Iurii Samoilov (Marco), Scott Wilde (Simone), Manel Esteve Madrid (Betto di Signa), Daniel Fussek (Gherardino), Matteo Peirone (Maestro Spinelloccio), Mikołaj Trąbka (Ser Amantio di Nicolao), Leopold Böhm (Buoso Donati)

Il tabarro
Asmik Grigorian (Giorgetta), Roman Burdenko (Michele), Joshua Guerrero (Luigi), Enkelejda Shkosa (La frugola), Andrea Giovannini (Il Tinca), Scott Wilde (IlTalpa), Dean Power (Venditore di canzonette/Amante), Martina Russomanno (Amante)

Midinettes: Dijana Kos, Irena Krsteska, Wilma Maller, Irena Peroš, Katarina Porubanvá, Anna Yasiutina

Dancers: Clara Cozzolino, Mário Jorge Moisés da Silva Branco, Joni Österlund, Anna Possarnig, Guillaume Rabain, Nicolas Franciscus, Giulia Tornarolli

Suor Angelica
Asmik Grigorian (Suor Angelica), Karita Mattila (La Zia Principessa), Hanna Schwarz (La Badessa), Enkelejda Shkosa (La Zelatrice), Giulia Semenzato (Suor Genovieffa), Caterina Piva (La Maestra delle Novizie), Martina Russomanno (Suor Osmina), Daryl Freedman (Suor Dolcina)

Other performers
Choir Soloists;:Dijana Kos, Mari Nakayama, Irena Peroš
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor/Jörn Hinnerk Andresen (chorus master), Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor/Wolfgang Götz (chorus master)
Stage music: Angelika Prokopp Summer Academy of the Wiener Philharmoniker

Production staff
Set designer: Étienne Pluss
Costume designer: Barbara Droshin
Lighting designer: Fabrice Kebour
Dramatic adviser: Yvonne Gebauer
Video director: Michael Beyer

Video details
Picture format: NTSC 16:9; Sound format: PCM Stereo/DTS 5.0; Region code: 0 (worldwide).
Sung in Italian; Subtitles: Italian, German, English, French, Spanish, Korean, Japanese