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New York City
August 2001

Pucciniís Next-to-Last Opera Scores High Grades in London
By IRVING SPITZ
Special to Education Update, London

In its early days, the English National Opera (ENO) performed at the Sadlerís Wells theater in London. In 1968, after almost 40 years, it moved to its present venue, the Coliseum. Regardless of its location, ENO remains one of Britainís great cultural icons

ENO seeks to produce high-quality opera sung in English at affordable prices. The company was certainly successful in a performance of Pucciniís penultimate opera, Il Trittico (The Triptych), a trilogy of three operas comprising Il Tabarro (The Cloak), Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) and Gianni Schicchi.

Il Tabarro deals with a clandestine love affair between Giorgetta, wife of the barge owner Michele, and the stevedore Luigi. When Michele finds out, he stabs Luigi to death and conceals the body in his cloak. In the second opera, Sister Angelica becomes a nun after bearing an illegitimate child and subsequently commits suicide after learning of the death of her child. The final opera is a comic masterpiece. At the request of the family of a recently deceased miser, Gianni Schicchi impersonates the miser at his deathbed, redrafts the will in the presence of a notary and, to the chagrin of the family, bequeaths to himself the whole estate. This last opera is adapted from Danteís Inferno.

Gianni Schicchi, the most popular, is perhaps one of the finest comedies ever composed and it is often performed without its companions. Nevertheless there is logic in performing the three operas in sequence to experience the progression from melodrama through tragic innocence to comedy. Il Trittico remains one of the most satisfying of all of Pucciniís operas.

Patrick Mason has managed to draw a memorable performance from the ENOís uniformly fine cast. The sets by Joe Vaneck mirrored the mood of the operas. The staging in Il Tabarro was dark and gloomy while in Suor Angelica the bright colors in the convent suggested an air of innocence without the impending tragedy. The Renaissance bedchamber and costumes in Gianni Schicchi were in keeping with the comedy.

The soprano Cheryl Barker took on the role of the unhappy wife Giorgetta in Il Tabarro as well as the challenging role of Sister Angelica. In addition to its vocal demands, this latter role calls for great stage presence and acting ability. Barker proved up to the task with her bright, clear soprano and brought ardor and impassioned lyricism to both roles.

In Il Tabarro, her husband, Michele, was sung effectively by robust baritone Peter Coleman-Wright. The light lyrical tenor Bonaventura Bottone was her lover Luigi who brought the required ardor and passion to the role. Andrew Shore portrayed Gianni Schicchi and was most successful both with his stylish acting and rich voiced baritone. The supporting cast in all three operas was strong, especially the radiant soprano of Mary Plazas as Laurettta in Gianni Schicchi. The resident conductor, Noel Davies, led the orchestra passionately in a well-paced account of the score. The result was a performance that was inspiring and moving.

The ENO nurtures young British singers, and there are many who received their first break here. Jane Eaglen, for example, first came to international attention with her performance in Cavalleria Rusticana in 1986. In addition to its formal season at the Coliseum, the ENO also operates an outreach program with schools in the east south of England, with the aim of developing opera awareness and encouraging creative activity. This outstanding program also enables participants to attend free of charge. The ENO is central to the operatic life of London.

 

Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.




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