Puccini (Il) Trittico
This Warner DVD offers idiomatic performances from La Scala of Puccini’s trilogy, conducted by the veteran Gianandrea Gavazzeni, always an understanding Puccinian. The productions are credited to Sylvano Bussotti, best-known as an avant-garde composer who in the mid-1970s turned his hand to stage production and at the time of this recording was the director of the Puccini Festival at Torre del Lago. His approach is broadly traditional, with an ultra-realistic set for the grand guignol of Il tabarro and rather more stylised settings for Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi.
Curiously, thanks to the relatively bright lighting, the realism of the Tabarro set has nothing sinister about it: one really wants something darker and more menacing. Here the curtain opens to show the west end of Notre Dame in Paris, and as the curtain rises there is even a horse going down the towpath. Puccini’s atmospheric writing readily compensates, however; the Scala orchestra catch the mood well and do not overdo the taxi horns and hooters.
Casting is strong, with Piero Cappuccilli in his prime as Michele, the cuckolded bargemaster. His appeal to Giorgetta, his estranged wife, is so passionate and tender that his climactic solo, ‘Nulla, silenzio’, has one totally sympathising. Sylvia Sass as Giorgetta tends to overact; her voice is steadier than it became later in her career but there is a steely edge to it which returns one’s sympathies to Michele.
As Luigi, Nicola Martinucci is powerful and unstrained; he later recorded the role for a Brussels version on Discover. Outstanding among the others is Eleonora Jankovic as La Frugola, firm of voice and characterful without overacting. The staging of the murder and Michele’s revealing of the body under his cloak, always tricky to bring off, is neatly managed.
The stylised set for Suor Angelica is unobjectionable, even if the semi-transparent screen which rises and falls seems unnecessary. What dominates the whole performance, as it should, is Rosalind Plowright’s moving assumption of the title role. Next to her, Dunja Vejzovic is disappointing, not so much vocally, though the voice rather lacks heft, as in appearance and personality; she seems too young and lightweight; hardly the unforgiving Princess. The nuns are nicely touched in, and the chorus is far more impressive than in Il tabarro. Brian Large’s direction sidesteps the final and sentimental vision of Angelica’s dead child.
The set for Gianni Schicchi reveals an enormous apartment with a panoramic view over Florence. The claustrophobia which can add point to the comic story is entirely absent, but the set is undistracting. Eleonora Jankovic again stands out among the incidental characters as the old woman, Zita, and though Yuri Marusin as Rinuccio is not helped by having a terrible page-boy wig foisted on him, he copes well with his big aria. Lauretta, his lover, is strongly cast, with Cecilia Gasdia luxuriantly drawing out ‘O mio babbino caro’ in finely shaded phrases, to the delight of the Scala audience.
Juan Pons is a firm and commanding Schicchi, taking centre-stage from his first entry. The staging of his final solo as a devil from Hell is curious to say the least; despite the Dante Inferno reference all our sympathies should be with Schicchi, demanding our applause.