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Opera Essentials: Il trittico

Our quick introduction to Puccini’s trio of short operas, bringing together the dramatic, tragic and comedic best of this giant of Italian opera.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

10 February 2016 at 11.01am | 1 Comment

The Story Begins…

In Il tabarro, Giorgetta seeks relief from her misery at the death of her baby by having an affair – how will her husband Michele react? In Suor Angelica, the nun Angelica is visited by a relative who brings unwelcome news. And in Gianni Schicchi, a Florentine family enlist the cunning Schicchi to help them rewrite a will, little knowing that Schicchi has his own plans.

Three Contrasting Musical Worlds

The musical worlds of the three one-act operas that make up Puccini’s Il trittico are very distinct, and yet complement each other. Paris-set Il tabarro opens with an extraordinary musical depiction of the Seine at dusk, while the characters’ working-class environment is evoked through popular music: drinking songs, the organ-grinder’s melody and the song of the ballad-singer. Suor Angelica is the most lyrical of the three operas, with poignant use of reiterated melodic material; while in Gianni Schicchi the bickering Donatis are brought hilariously to life through their rapid, rhythmically insistent music, which contrasts with the young lovers’ lyricism.

Melodrama, Tragedy and Comedy

Puccini’s three operas all had very different sources. Il tabarro was a reworking of La Houppelande, a melodramatic play by Didier Gold that Puccini saw in Paris in 1912. The plot of Suor Angelica seems to have been invented by Puccini and his librettist Forzano, while the inspiration for Gianni Schicchi came from a passing mention of the character in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and from a commentary on Dante published in 1866.

Inspired Arias

Puccini’s melodic gift is very apparent throughout Il trittico. Particular highlights include Suor Angelica’s heartrending aria ‘Senza mamma’, and, in Gianni Schicchi, Lauretta’s coaxing ‘O mio babbino caro’ and Rinuccio’s vibrant Tuscan stornello ‘Firenze è come un albero fiorito’. Il tabarro is full of melodic treasures too – including an aria in praise of a cat!

United at Last

For many years, it was a rare treat to hear all three operas of Il trittico performed together – Suor Angelica was regularly dropped, and Gianni Schicchi often paired with works by other composers. However, the works are increasingly performed as Puccini wished: as a one-of-a-kind operatic triptych from a master of Italian opera.

Il trittico runs 25 February–15 March 2016. Tickets are still available.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

10 February 2016 at 11.01am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Richard Jones, essentials, giacomo puccini, Gianni Schicchi, history, Il tabarro, il trittico, opera, Opera Essentials, operatic triptych, Production, Suor Angelica, triptych

This article has 1 comment

  1. Chrissie Bates responded on 19 February 2016 at 4:55pm Reply

    There's only one thing I need to know about Il Trittico: that Elena Zilio is in Gianni Schicci. Looking forward to it.

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