Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gianni Schicchi Diary: Introduction

 It's my custom to keep a diary when working outside the studios, so welcome to The Gianni Schicchi Diary! 

The good people at Opera Project Columbus have asked me to direct their production of Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. Tonight is the first staging rehearsal.
This one act delight is Puccini's only comedy. It is part of three one act operas (Il trittico-The Triptych) the world premier of which was given in New York at the Metropolitan Opera n December 14, 1918. The world was in the mood to celebrate one month after the armistice was signed.

Giuseppe DeLuca , the first Gianni Schicchi
Il tabarro and Suor Angelica were qualified successes. Gianni Schicchi was a bona fide hit. W.J. Henderson, dean of music critics for the New York Times, was gentle with the first two operas but called GS "one of the most delightful bits every put on the opera stage".

The libretto is by Gioacchino Forzano. The basis is an episode, a few lines really, from Dante's Divina Commedia. In the XXX canto, we encounter Gianni Schicchi, who had advised Simone, relative of Buoso Donati on amending an unsatisfactory will. In so doing, Schicchi is consigned by Dante to hell. Some of this story reflects Dante's own antipathy toward the 'peasant class' and especially of his wife's family, the Donati.

What's not to love with this 45 minute opera? You get a deliciously nasty family, a dead guy on stage for much of the action, a 'peasant', his daughter who sings a big hit:

"Un Donati sposare un figlia di villano?! cries Simone, the elder of the family.
A Donati, to marry the daughter of a peasant?!
That's just one of several great lines in this opera.

Splendida Firenze!

When the will is found and read leaving all of Buoso's property to the monks, his cousin Zita, a hateful old lady grumbles:

Ch l'avrrebe mai detto che quando Buoso andava al cimitero si sarebbe pianto per daverro!
Who could have told that once Buoso went to the cemetery, we'd be crying for real!

Gianni Schicchi arrives with his daughter Lauretta. She's usually portrayed as a sweet, innocent girl. I think she's more of a princess. Daaaaaadddy!

Schicchi's first line is one of my favorites in all opera:

Quale aspetto sgomenta e desolato
Buoso Donati certo e migliorato

What a lot of sad looks
Buoso Donati must be getting better

 I've directed Suor Angelica and yes.  I loved it and yes I cried,  nice Catholic boy that I am.
But now we get down and dirty, and we have fun. Newsflash: Opera can be fun!

Opera Project Columbus was formed to give local singers an opportunity to perform. We have a terrific cast
Alessandro Siciliani. Opera can be fun!
for this production: attractive, talented and a world class baritone for the tile role. And our conductor?
Alessandro Siciliani, former music director of the Columbus Symphony, veteran of the New York City Opera and the Met, not forgetting a slew of Italian opera houses. Alessandro is  Florentine himself. Watching him dart around at rehearsal coaching the Italian texts has been the joy of my late spring. He gets all of the inflection and double meanings unavailable at first to non native speakers.

The big challenge of this staging is not musical, its the venue. We have a small stage, and no pit. With the orchestra onstage we're going to use the house more than the stage. You may be sitting next to Rinuccio as he pours out his love for Lauretta, or Simone or Zita as they scheme away Buoso's money. Gianni Schicchi might pick your pocket.

Performances June 15 and 16.
Check back here for more dish.
First staging rehearsal is tonight.

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