In the 105 years that have passed since Giacomo Puccini premiered a trio of one-act operas of love and loss comprising his triptych, companies have rarely shown the three together given the length of time needed. What is gained in practicalities, however, is lost in the way each piece of Il trittico enhances the others.
The gritty realism of Il tabarro (The Cloak) sees a wife trapped in a marriage she yearns to escape, which leads into the melancholy heartbreak of Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) an outsider forced into a life for which she has no vocation, and then coming full circle with the farce and black humour of Gianni Schicchi, a dysfunctional family caught in the snare of a shameless conman.
Presenting all three operas in one evening as Puccini intended, is a suitably celebratory company premiere for the Scottish Opera’s 60th Anniversary season. To be in attendance of such a performance is pure magic.
World-renowned director, Sir David McVicar, works with designers Charles Edwards and Hannah Clark to create three separate worlds. THeir Glasgow-inspired takes on Puccini’s original settings are unified by secrets, passions, and lies. The boat and bridge in Il tabarro create amazingly dramatic angles, lit with atmospheric shadows. The cold church drained of colour in Suor Angelica signifies an oppressive atmosphere, while the messy and magnified bedroom of Gianni Schicchi heightens the comical nature of the final opera. The sets are as integral to the stories as the music itself, coming together in perfect unison to create a masterpiece that makes you feel like you are watching paintings come to life.
Leading Puccini’s magnificent scores are the company’s Music Director, Stuart Stratford, and longstanding Head of Music, Derek Clark. Together they conduct a world-class ensemble cast that features Roland Wood (Michele and Gianni) alongside Sunyoung Seo (Georgetta and Sister Angelica). Seo plays both emotionally demanding roles beautifully, and makes her Scottish Opera debut alongside Viktor Antipenko (Luigi) – the couple shining together as the secret lovers. Another standout isFrancesca Chiejina (Lauretta) who gives a powerful rendition of the famous O mio babbino caro.
Il trittico is a rare opera event like no other that demands the attention Puccini believed they each deserved to highlight the range of his musical skill, the symmetry of the dramas, and the truth of each opera’s characters. Puccini’s scores each boast their own vivid sound and world, yet all three fit together into a truly satisfying whole.
Though this may be an intense first foray to any newcomer to opera, it also gives a taste of the range of genres the format can portray. Opera can sometimes be written off as a elitist art form, but upon viewing Il trittico in its entirety – highlighting the struggles of women, lovers, and families from various backgrounds – it is easy to see that the opposite is true and that opera is to be enjoyed by all.