Puccini, Il Tabarro and Gianni Schicchi
The front and back ends of Puccini‘s Trittico came on stage at the Volksoper this evening.
The Volksoper performed both in German to make them more accessible. This worked better for the darker Il Tabarro (Der Mantel) than for the comic Gianni Schicchi, which I had suspected. I actually have recordings of both in German, so the concept is not unfamiliar, but the Volksoper’s Italianate performances tend not to reach the standards of other productions, whereas the brooding and less tuneful Tabarro could almost pass in German. I have never actually seen Il Tabarro before, but have seen Gianni Schicchi (most recently at the Novaya Opera in November).
Conductor Stefan Klingele and the Volksoper orchestra contributed greatly to the success of the first part, with gorgeous lush tones emerging from the pit. The cast, mostly nondescript, got on with the business of acting on a simple but apt set by Volksoper artistic director Robert Meyer, whose star continues to rise in my book. The opera ended dramatically, if not in a convincingly realistic way, mostly on the musical strength of the orchestra and the principals. Michael Ende as Luigi, had the biggest and most dramatic voice. Alik Abdukayumov and Maida Hundeling starred as Michele and Giorgietta.
For the second part, Meyer moved the scene of Gianni Schicchi from 12th Century Florence to somewhere in the second half of the 20th Century (1950s?). This presented no real problem, because almost nothing in the story is dated (except the criminal penalty for falsifying a will). The realistic set worked. And while the performance preserved the humor, the translation did not necessarily do justice to the original Italian. This is a comedy that relies mostly on its script, rather than action (in contrast, the slapstick performance I saw in Moscow in the Fall was not the right approach). Martin Winkler in the title role and Sebastian Reinthaller as Rinuccio stood out from the rest of the cast, all of whom acted in an appropriately comical manner.