OPERA NEWS - Il Trittico
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In Review > North America

Il Trittico

The Metropolitan Opera

In Review Met Tabarro hdl 1118
George Gagnidze and Amber Wagner in Il Tabarro
Ken Howard/Met Opera
In Review Suor Angelica lg 1118
Stephanie Blythe and Kristine Opolais in Suor Angelica
Ken Howard/Met Opera

THE MOST DRAMATIC MOMENT in the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera’s revival of Il Trittico (November 23) was not Michele’s murder of his wife’s lover in Il Tabarro—it wasn’t even Suor Angelica’s heartbreaking discovery of her child’s death. It was a moment Puccini could never have imagined: at the beginning of the evening’s first intermission, Plácido Domingo was honored for his unprecedented fifty years of leading roles with the company. After a short retrospective film featuring some of Domingo’s most glorious moments in his fifty-one Met roles to date, the audience rocketed to its feet with a heartfelt outpouring of admiration when Domingo walked out of the wings. Met general manager Peter Gelb presented Domingo with a commemorative plank taken from the Met stage and the leather jacket Domingo wore in the Met’s 1994 Otello (dyed fiftieth-anniversary gold). The evening also marked Domingo’s first Met performance as the titular scoundrel in Gianni Schicchi, but the audience didn’t get to hear their idol in his fifty-second Met role until well after eleven P.M. 

Jack O’Brien’s production, first presented at the Met in 2007, updates the action to various points in the twentieth century and places the emphasis on the private conversations that fuel all three pieces. The evening was exciting overall, but the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Il Tabarro offered some of the evening’s most beautiful singing. Amber Wagner displayed a sumptuous, supple soprano as Giorgetta, her voice shimmering with longing as she sang of happier times in Paris. If she didn’t exactly smolder with passion for Marcelo Álvarez’s feline Luigi, she expressed her love with refinement and determination. Pacing like a caged tiger, Álvarez captured Luigi’s frustration with the tension of an elastic band stretched to its limit. The contrasting colors of their voices created a romantic attraction, with the taut lyricism of Alvarez’s tenor acting as ballast to Wagner’s fuller sound. Rounding out the tortured love triangle was George Gagnidze’s moody Michele. His palpable pain at the realization of his double loss (first his child, now his wife) kept him from being a villain, and his mellifluous tone reinforced his humanity. Debutant Brian Michael Moore was the Parpignolish Song Seller, and mezzo-soprano MaryAnn McCormick was a lively but shrill Frugola. Tony Stevenson and Maurizio Muraro cavorted gamely as two rowdy dockworkers, while the young lovers—soprano Ashley Emerson and tenor Yi Li, in his house debut—conveyed the sweet innocence necessary to highlight the domestic drama on the barge.

Suor Angelica seemed static until Stephanie Blythe’s entrance as the Principessa. Blythe gave a master class in the power of stillness and how to command the stage with simple, clearly motivated moment. Her singing was divine—few singers can fill the Met with such seeming effortlessness—and Blythe drew the eye with such economical, eloquent character details as a knowing tilt of her head or a judgmental prod of her walking stick into Angelica’s herb garden. Soprano Kristine Opolais sang Angelica with a firm grip of the dramatic stakes, but despite some beautifully floated high notes, she often sounded harsh, which lent her character a stern demeanor. Her best singing came after she poisoned herself and tore off her wimple; it was as if her voice had been liberated, along with her hair. Best of the solo nuns were Maureen McKay (Sister Genovieffa), Megan Marino (Nursing Sister), Lindsay Ammann (Abbess) and Leah Hawkins, in her company debut as one of the Alms sisters.

In REview Met Schicchi hdl 1118
Plácido Domingo in the title role of Gianni Schicchi with (l to right) Stephanie Blythe, Gabriella Reyes and Lindsay Ammann
Ken Howard / Met Opera

As Schicchi, Domingo sang and moved with the energy and agility of a man half his age, and he seemed genuinely to be enjoying every moment onstage. His voice still glows, and most of the role sat in his rich middle register. “Addio, Firenze” had that trademark Domingo sound, and his delivery was dryly witty. There were some fun bits, such as the synchronized reactions to the will and the pilfering of Buoso’s treasures at the end. But the dysfunctional family seemed strangely unified in their discord, with only a few characterizations etched distinctly. Blythe’s Zita dominated the relatives with hilarious, covert snacking and her brazen theft of a giant candelabrum. Ammann’s Ciesca also stood out for her arresting mezzo and Christine Baranski-style flooziness, while the ardent tenor Atalla Ayan offered theatrical flair as a refreshingly forceful Rinuccio. Muraro made an amusingly dogged Simone, Patrick Carfizzi a pessimistic, Eeyore-like Betto, and Kevin Burdette,  contributed a nosy, nasal, self-congratulatory Dr. Spinelloccio who moved like a human rubber band. In her company debut, soprano Kristina Mkhitaryan sang Lauretta’s “O mio babbino caro” with warmth and directness, eschewing any suggestion of coyness or manipulation. 

Conductor Bertrand de Billy maintained a transparent orchestral texture, even when the orchestra swelled, although there were times when the romanticism threatened to get away from him. Each opera has a spectacular set by Douglas W. Schmidt, and Gianni Schicchi actually features two. In the last five minutes, Buoso Donati’s dark, tapestried boudoir sinks into the floor, replaced by a breathtaking recreation of the iconic view of Florence from the Boboli Gardens. Lauretta and Rinuccio rode the new set down from the flies, seated atop the railing, enjoying the dawn of a new day. —Joanne Sydney Lessner

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