"Incredibly clever" Trittico onstage in VictoriaReview
Pacific Opera Victoria took on a massive undertaking in performing Puccini’s Il trittico: three hour-long, one-act operas presented in a single performance. With a huge cast and three full productions, it’s impossible to review it all, so I’ll give the highlights of each.
Starting off the night is Il tabarro, a dark tale of betrayal and murder. Set on a small barge, the entire show takes place in a tiny space downstage, with a small dock and the barge being the only set pieces. It gives the feeling of being closed in, and the claustrophobia and inescapability of Georgetta’s predicament.
The barge itself is small and narrow, with the smoke coming from the boat, and the reflection of water on the building behind. The only drawback of the production is the final fight scene, which in this performance felt under-rehearsed, and had the audience laughing at what should have been the dramatic climax. Despite that, the performers brought a great sense of tension to the story, and the sadness and desperation of the occupants.
It’s a brilliant idea that tie all the operas together perfectly, and make three separate, stand-alone operas feel like a cohesive, single show.
Suor Angelica takes place in a convent hospital, brilliant and luminous in shades of white and grey, with the sunlight pouring into the windows. Angelica’s confrontation with her aunt take place in the garden, as the sun sets and the world turns dark. The ensembles of the piece are beautiful, though the pacing of the action is slow and the ending slightly overwrought.
Gianni Schicchi is presented as a group of travelling performers putting on the commedia dell’arte of Gianni Schicchi. The costumes are riotous, colourful, and ridiculous, the action is madcap and frenetic, the acting is hilarious and pure buffoonery, and the result is a hilarious comedic romp to end the night on.
Aviva Fortunata as Giorgetta is a standout in Tabarro.
Each character is over-the-top in their absurdity, greed, or oafishness, and the troupe themselves are shown as being not overly skilled or professional, with costume pieces flung around the stage, including the corpse of Buoso himself being tossed unceremoniously offstage. The score is quite difficult, and the ensemble pieces were very well done, particularly the women’s ensembles were polished and well balanced.
In an incredibly clever conceit by director Glynis Leushon, all the operas are linked to take place at the exact same time, one right after the other in the same place. The barge in Tabarro is docked right next to the convent hospital where Suor takes place, and the patients in the hospital are entertained by a troupe of commedia performers with a play-within-a-play version of Gianni Schicchi, with the actors interacting with the hospital patients, and even with the conductor. It’s a brilliant idea that tie all the operas together perfectly, and make three separate, stand-alone operas feel like a cohesive, single show.
A great 3-in-1 production with something to offer for everyone.
Aviva Fortunata as Giorgetta is a standout in Tabarro, with a warm full soprano, and barely-contained frustration and anger at being made to stay on the boat. Her desperation when she tries to leave her estranged husband is palpable as she nearly betrays her plan to escape.
Lara Ciekiewicz as Lauretta is supremely lovely. With a brilliant high soprano, her “O mio babbino caro” is played with great comedic timing as the beautiful, but somewhat ditzy young girl desperate to marry her sweetheart.
Todd Thomas is a delightful Gianni Schicchi. Though encumbered with a ridiculously large fake nose, his characterization of the clever friend was hilarious, particularly when threatening the greedy family members by pretending to have his hands cut off.
Tenor Owen McCausland as Tinca (Tabarro) and Rinuccio (Schicchi) was a huge standout. With a powerful, bright voice, he shone in both Tabarro and Schicchi in turns as the poetic drunk, and the amorous lover.
Mezzo-soprano Megan Latham is a brilliant Frugola (Tabarro) and Princess (Suor). With a beautiful, smooth mezzo voice, she was incredibly resonant and powerful, particularly in her lowest register, and her heartless portrayal of the Princess was menacing and pitiless.
Thomas Goertz as Talpa (Tabarro) and Simone (Schicchi) is funny and entertaining in both roles. With a polished, rich bass, his characterizations of both roles are funny and charming.
Peter Monaghan as Betto di Signa (Schicchi) is a hilarious buffoon. Played as a dumb, awkward dope, he was constantly fumbling around the stage, even crying at Lauretta’s plight. It was a joy to watch him just try to figure out what was going on.
In the very small role of the cobbler (Schicchi) is Dale Friesen. Despite only being on stage for a few minutes, he was vocally incredibly powerful, even hindered by a mask that hid most of his face. I loved his performance.
The difficult score was handled expertly by the Victoria Symphony under the baton of Timothy Vernon, beautifully underscoring the action on stage with subtlety and great technical musicality.
POV’s Trittico is a brilliant opening to a new season, and shows the innovation and risk taking that audiences have come to expect from the company. A great 3-in-1 production with something to offer for everyone.