Thursday, December 03, 2009

Metropolitan Opera – Puccini’s Il Trittico. December 1, 2009.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center – Grand Tier Seat G13 ($102.50).

Story – Il Tabarro. Setting: Paris 1927. After their son dies, Giorgetta grows apart from her husband Michele and has an affair with Luigi. When Luigi rushes to the barge, mistakenly thinking it is a signal from Giorgetta, Michele kills him. When Giorgetta comes on deck of the barge, Michele reveals the dead body to her.
Story – Suor Angelica. Setting: Tuscany 1938. Angelica is banished by her family to a convent after she gave birth to an illegitimate child. After seven years, her aunt comes to visit to settle the estate of Angelica’s parents. She also tells Angelica that her son died two years ago. Angelica, overcome with grief, commits suicide. After she ingests the poison, she prays that her mortal sin be forgiven. Her child welcomes her to heaven.
Story – Gianni Schicchi. Setting: Florence 1959. The wealthy Buoso Donati dies and his relatives retains Schicchi to try to get at the inheritance. Schicchi’s daughter Lauretta is in love with Rinuccio, one of the relatives. Schicchi pretends to be the dead man and has the will rewritten, in the process also benefitting himself.

Conductor – Stefano Ranzani.
Cast Il Tabarro: Giorgetta – Patricia Racette, Michele – Reljko Lucic, Luigi – Aleksandrs Antonenko.
Cast Suor Angelica: Angelica – Patricia Racette, The Princess – Stephanie Blythe.
Cast Gianni Schicchi: Zita – Stephanie Blythe, Rinuccio – Saimir Pirgu, Gianni Schicchi – Alessandro Corbelli, Lauretta – Patricia Racette.

It took me a while to realize that Il Trittico has something to do with the number “three”. Indeed tonight’s performance comprises of three one-hour one-act operas with half-hour intermissions in between.

Patricia Racette, whom we see for the first time, sings in all three operas. This, per the Program Notes, isn’t done all that often. That may explain why the intermissions are that long as she probably needs the time to rest her voice. Not being a singer, I don’t know how difficult the singing roles are. Certainly she does a lot of it during Suor Angelica. Her role in Gianni Schicchi is quite limited, though, even though she has one of the most famous arias in opera: the short “O mio babbino caro.” I am sure Isolde’s role is much more demanding. Nonetheless, she manages to fill the roles well.

Stephanie Blythe, a mezzo-soprano, whom we have seen quite a few times (recently in Rusalka and the Ring cycle), did an excellent job. She has a great voice but is usually limited to secondary roles, undoubtedly due to her voice range and her weight. One wonders how far she could go if she shed some weight.

Somehow all the women singers are American-born while the men singers, and the conductor, are Europeans, many from Eastern Europe. I wonder whether that reflects on the state of American Opera talent.

The sets are all quite impressive. With Il Tabarro it is a large barge on the River Seine; the setting for Suor Angelica is the courtyard of a convent; for Gianni Schicchi it is the bedroom of Buoso Donati. From where we were sitting, they looked extremely well-done with great details. I find how the crest on the wall of the convent very interesting: it morphs from a painting to a three-dimensional statue. Towards the end of Gianni Schicchi, the entire bedroom drops to reveal a garden overlooking Florence. While it is quite impressive, one wonders if it is too much for the last several minutes of the program.

The Program Notes says that many consider Suor Angelica the weakest of the three operas. The story, however, is most compelling. Gianni Schicchi is a comedy, and is one of the few that works for me. Even though we know how the story is going to end, the acting still makes it funny to watch. Despite the Program Notes claim that the three operas together will give the audience a unique experience, I am not sure how.

Puccini died in 1924, and all these operas have settings that are dated after his death. I wonder why; and the Program Notes doesn’t seem to mention it. Out of the three hours of performance, there is only one aria that is easily singable, which is a pity in my opinion. There are some very atonal passages that I wonder if the singers are at the correct pitch. The applause during and after the show is surprising reserved; the fact that the show concluded close to midnight definitedly contributed. Also, there were quite a few empty seats. Perhaps weekdays crowds are different?

We were a little worried about driving into the city during the holiday period. The traffic reports were not encouraging. We left a little after 5 (for an 8 pm start), taking the Holland Tunnel. It wasn’t too bad, and the trip home was quick – we got home at 12:45 am.

The New York Times review is quite favorable. The reviewer also thinks Racette resonates well with Angelica.

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