One of the defining characteristics of the great composer Giacomo Puccini was his unyielding musical curiosity. Out of his admiration for his contemporaries like Strauss, Stravinsky, Debussy, and Schoenberg, Il Trittico (The Triptych) was born: a collection of three one-act operas, each with its own distinct storyline, genre, and musical style. Different as they are, the three segments belong together and create a sense of unity and dramatic range, held together by Puccini’s inimitable musical flair.
Il Trittico debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 14 December 1918 to critical and popular acclaim, but its eclectic nature prevented it from achieving the wild popularity of Puccini’s traditional operatic works. The Puccini Festival at Torre del Lago, therefore, offers a rare opportunity to see this truly special and unique stage production.
Il Trittico begins with Il Tabarro, a melodramatic, violent love triangle. The action takes place aboard a barge on the Seine. Giorgetta, the wife of barge owner Michele, is cheating on him with the porter Luigi. The wronged husband strangles his wife’s lover and hides his body under a cloak, to pull it off in front of Giorgetta for a shocking reveal. Il Tabarro displays Puccini’s knack for dramatic orchestration and features duets and arias as heated and passionate as the story itself.
Suor Angelica dials the brutality down and sees Puccini explore the lyrical, subdued side of emotional anguish. It tells the tragic story of young noblewoman Angelica confined to a monastery after giving birth to an illegitimate child. As her family abandons her and her child dies, the heartbroken Angelica takes poison and in her final moments has a vision of the Virgin Mary reuniting her with her baby in heaven. Watch out for the tragically beautiful aria ‘ Senza mamma, o bimbo, tu sei morto ‘.
Gianni Schicci provides much-needed comic relief, despite its origins in Dante’s Inferno. It tells the story of the titular character who impersonates a recently deceased nobleman in order to revise his will and give blessing to a wedding across social classes, all in comically self-serving fashion. The playful soprano aria ‘O mio babbino caro’ and the vivid score prove yet again Puccini’s genre-transcending musical gift.