Il triticco

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars


THERE are good reasons why Puccini’s late-career trilogy of short operas is rarely presented as a package.

Although the stories of the first two revolve around a dead child and religious orders exert a baleful influence on events in tales two and three, they have little in common in tone. Staging all three in sequence also makes for a long night, with set changes taking Scottish Opera’s new production well over four hours. 

The main linking ingredient, of course, is the music, and in that this Il trittico is a triumph. The very large orchestra in the pit, under the baton of Music Director Stuart Stratford is on stellar form, and the conductor’s balancing of the vast instrumental forces with the singers is pretty much perfect.

There is only one really famous tune in the whole score, O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi,  but this was Puccini at the height of his craft, controlling the atmosphere in the theatre at every moment and Stratford ensures his masterly skill is always evident. 

Stage director Sir David McVicar’s deft skill as a theatrical storyteller is just as apparent across the bulk of the evening. Progressing through the decades of the 20th century, the Paris dockside melodrama Il tabarro (The Cloak) is followed by a superb staging of Suor Angelica that transplants the nuns to Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, culminating in an outrageously colourful version of Dante’s Florence updated to around 50 years ago for Schicchi. 

Korean soprano Sunyoung Seo is the vocal discovery of the cast, a very fine actor as well as a superb voice as Giorgetta, the bargeman’s wife at the centre of Il tabarro’s love triangle, and in the title role of Sister Angelica.

Tenor Viktor Antipenko also makes an impressive debut as Luigi in the former and Karen Cargill has a commanding cameo in a severe suit as The Princess in Suor Angelica. 

There are superb ensemble turns throughout the company - soprano Francesca Cheijina’s three appearances culminating in that famous aria, and tenor Jamie MacDougall adding characterful performances to Il tabarro and Schicchi for example - but company favourite Roland Wood is sold  a little short in the title role of the least piece. 

After creating a very nuanced Falstaff for McVicar in Scottish Opera’s outdoor staging of the Verdi, he is just as good as the brooding Michele in Il tabarro. Schicchi, however, is less well paced than the other two and shows its hand too early, in the madcap sitcom hysteria and skewed perspective of the set, leaving the baritone nowhere to go as the confidence trickster who outsmarts the avaricious Donati clan. 

Most of the first-night audience were delighted by the end of their evening, but the strengths of this trio of tales really lay earlier in the night.