Il Trittitico 4/21/07

It's a delight to see Il Trittico, Giacomo Puccini's triptych of one-act operas during its new production opening last night at the Met (Metropolitan Opera) in Lincoln Center. All three operas have different stories requiring three different cast and three different sets. That is quite a logistical challenge but all efforts pulled off brilliantly for director Jack O'Brien (who directed the Broadway winner Hairspray), set designer Douglas Schimdt, costume designer Jess Goldstein and lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. It's even noteworthy that this is a debut production at the Met for all the aforementioned creative talents.

Il Trittico's three operas span a contrasting dramatic and emotional milieu which gives a glimpse on modern day human experiences: Il Tabbaro delves on the saga of two illicit lovers and their yearning for freedom, Suor Angelica portrays a nun's dilemma between her vows to the Church and her love for her child (I just love that tragic ending!) and Gianni Schicchi, generally perceived to be the best among the three, is a comedy about young love caught in the midst of greed and hypocrisy.

Under the baton of Met's musical director James Levine, the music and the words sung onstage were molded passionately and convincingly, creating a spellbinding three hours that captured Puccini's score and the libretti of Giuseppe Adami and Giovacchino Forzano as they would really have wanted it. To hear the romantic "O Mio Babbino Caro" as sung with youthful audacity by soprano Olga Mykytenko (as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi) was pure indulgence to my ears.

In fact, most of the cast were really in their prime last night. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe was the only member who appeared in all three operas and remained remarkable in all three: as Frugola in Il Tabarro, as La Principessa in Suor Angelica (I adore her there!) and as Zita in Gianni Schicchi (Bravo!). Maria Guleghina as the unfaithful wife Giorgetta in the first opera sang with so much longing in her heart that you would forgive her trysts with Luigi as performed by the powerful voice of tenor Salvatore Licitra. The singular act of a manic suicide scene makes soprano Barbara Frittoli in Suor Angelica well remembered by the audience.

As typical of a Met production, the stage set in all three operas were truly elaborate. I could hear the audience letting off a collective hum of appreciation each time the curtain raises up. In Il Tabbaro, we are transported to the river Seine with a bridge across it and a docked red barge while in Suor Angelica, we take a peek at monastic life inside a cloister with a courtyard and garden. Gianni Schicchi has two sets: a deathbed inside a palazzo which later goes down completely under the stage to reveal a terrace overlooking a manicured garden and the city of Florence.

Il Trittico, which premiered at the Met in 1918, has only six performances left for this year's season. A live High Definition screening on selected theaters across the U.S. will be available in April 28.

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