Il Trittico – Festival Theatre

Composed by Giacomo Puccini

Directed by Sir David McVicar

Conducted by Stuart Stratford

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The idea of remaining faithful to the artist’s intentions is, for some producers, not always the first thing on their mind in staging a lengthy or composite collection of works. For Puccini, there was no other way to demonstrate the versatility of the art form of opera than with Il trittico, a consortium of three one-act operas.

But Scottish Opera’s new production presents Puccini’s Il trittico in an intended manner: all at once. Not spaced out or chopped apart, nor torn asunder and staged with an unusual pairing from a differing composer. This is the art at its most pristine, respectable, and by lord at its most divinely impressive. Over four hours, which in truth breezes by with little discomfort or effort, audiences can gluttonously devour the full Puccini impact: from the noirish melodrama of Il tabarro, guided through the agony and emotional circus of Suor Angelica and concluding with the ripple of comedic wistful farse, Gianna Schicchi.

Though separate, David McVicar’s glorious staging tethers the trio with a time-traversal of pre to post-war vision. It remains staunchly faithful but with a required signature from McVicar that stands apart. The craned towers and oil-slicked canals of the Seine could very easily be the dockyards of the Clyde, one suspects this is more than a coincidence for Charles Edward’s backdrop of Il tabarro. It’s wholly authentic, yet paradoxically capable of that Scottish Opera grandeur and allure: almost story-book in its visual splendour. There’s an intensity in authentic and natural colour away from false-lurid neon, which so beautifully compliments the atmosphere Stuart Stratford conjures from the orchestra pit.

Even the fetid and worn cotton whites beneath the Sister’s convent come to life under Stratford’s transparently intelligent control of sound, the bass-like mutterings forming a chant to offer a foundation to Sister Angelica’s pain at the realisation of the loss of her son. The way Suor Angelica burns itself into the memory is harrowing and elevates the entire collection into a word-class demonstration. Making their company debut, Sunyoung Seo’s unadorned rawness as Angelica, even with the whispers she infuses in and around Senza Mamma, showcases an emotional enrapturing command of space – so much so that the audience welcomes the extensive break to readjust and collect themselves. It makes a succulent reversal of the aria’s outwardly sneered antagonist, carried deliciously by soprano Karen Cargill as Angelica’s aunt, The Princess.

Seo’s transition comes as a swift and dazzling change from their initial performance as the aching, more melodramatic, dare we say, romantically charged Giorgetta in Il tabarro. Roland Wood makes for a constricted Michele, bottling their agony, allowing flickers of sharp ashen-toned vocals to command the scene before their stark reversal to the calculating comedic prince of performance as Schicchi. This charcoal heavy air, stale and black, emanates into the Festival Theatre audience throughout this introductory classic love triangle opera which, of course, ends in heartbreak for Giorgetta, her young lover Luigi, and her husband Michele. The gradual bubbling of resentment turns into crimson vindication, hitting all the harder with Viktor Antipenko’s chemistry and harmony with Seo.  

After these, a spot of comedy wouldn’t go amiss – would it?

Where to even begin with the absolute madness, joviality, and thunderous energy of Gianni Schicchi – a perfect antidote to piety and retribution of the preceding operas. Yet, even this starts with death – through an altogether more humourous one. With Keith MacPherson’s deceased Buoso now nothing more than a prop for his family, the wealth distribution must begin. The issue? The old duffer left it all to the Monks. But not if the titular Schicchi (Wood) has anything to say in aiding Buoso’s self-serving family in claiming their fortune.

Drenched in late-sixties apparel (head dressings and neckerchiefs to boot), Hannah Clark’s hyper-realist costuming comes entirely into its own with the gaudiness of it all. There isn’t a performer in this sequence not surrendering themselves over Mercury here, the lord of tricksters having a huge influence over this motley lot. Though recognition must be set aside for the resonance and storytelling abilities of Julian Close, Elgan Llŷr Thomas and the marvellous Louise Winter as Busco’s most avaricious relatives.

Amidst the chaos – by the time another debut performer Francesca Chiejina silences audiences as the loved-up daughter of Schicchi, Lauretta, their Il mio babbino caro delicately blazes the audiences with flushed faces of pleasure and comes as a comfortable ‘11 o’clock number’. Though some may thank their rears for holding out, most of the audience finds this signature of the end comes with a pang of finality. But be not sorry for the conclusion; Scottish Opera’s Il trittico has been masterfully crafted and rounded to the perfection of pacing, pleasure, and purity of sound. Any more, it would dilute. Any less, it would refute its integrity.  

There’s only one performance left of Scottish Opera’s Il trittico. A sour note for some, but all good things must end – consigned to memories likely to remain burned into the audience’s memory: a respectful opera, true to Puccini’s intention, with enough flavour and reinvention from the miraculous mind of McVicar to continue Scottish Opera’s legacy of creating world-class productions. Barter, alter wills, or put faith in deities: do what you must to secure a ticket. We won’t snitch.


Il trittico runs at the Festival Theatre until March 25th. Wednesday and Saturday at 18.00pm. 
Running time – Four hours and four minutes including two intervals at thirty minutes and forty minutes.
Tickets begin from £22.50 (con. available) and may be obtained here.


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