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Review: GIANNI SCHICCHI at Norwood Ballroom

Review: GIANNI SCHICCHI at Norwood Ballroom

Puccini's only comic opera.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Saturday 17th September 2022.

The popular touring company, Co-Opera, is back in Adelaide with Giacomo Puccini's one-act comic opera, Gianni Schicchi, part of his trilogy, Il Trittico, which includes Suor Angelica and Il Tabarro. His librettist for this, his only comedy, was Giovacchino Forzano. Co-Opera productions are a complete evening out, with patrons encouraged to arrive early, and bring food and drink to consume before the opera begins, and during the evening. This also makes their productions a great way to introduce newcomers to opera, without great expense, nor the need for dressing in black tie. After a two-year absence due to the pandemic, both performances today were, of course, sold out.

The production features experienced singers, who regularly perform with State Opera of South Australia, as well as interstate, and overseas, alongside newcomers to the profession, graduates from the Elder Conservatorium of Music, which gives them a wonderful opportunity to gain valuable experience.

First performed in 1918, this production is updated from its original setting, 1299, and is here set in 1952, but still in Florence, Italy. The production was directed by Stephanie Acraman, and conducted by Leanne Puttick, with Stephen van der Hoek at the piano who, together, have built a wonderful performance.

Schicchi and the Donatis were real people, immortalised in Dante's Inferno, where he sends Schicchi to the eighth level of hell. The character of Shicchi mentions Dante in the closing of the opera.

Buoso Donati, the patriarch of the family, has died and his avaricious family have gathered, but their interest is entirely focussed on what they will be given in his will. They have heard a disturbing rumour that he has left everything to a monastery. Rinuccio, nephew of Zita, a cousin of Buoso, finds the will, expecting to receive plenty of money, but the rumour proves to be true, dashing his hopes of marrying Lauretta, Gianni's daughter. Although they look down on Gianni, as 'new money', the family, what's left of one of the oldest in Florence, enlist his help, asking him to find a way to beat the will. He tells them that it is watertight.

He then agrees to pretend that he is Buoso, still alive, and dictate a new will, making them the beneficiaries. The illegality doesn't bother them, and they accept his offer. He has plans of his own, though, and seizes the opportunity to turn the tables on them. He allocates small endowment to each of the, as they requested, but they all argued over the main part of the estate, leaving to to Gianni to decide who gets what, each offering him bribes to name them. He names himself, getting the mansion, the mule, and the timber mills, and Rinuccio gets his wish to marry Lauretta, with all of that as a dowry.

If you happen to think that you recognise stock characters from the great tradition of Commedia dell'Arte, you are absolutely correct. Schicchi is derived from Arlecchino, Lauretta from Columbina, Simone from Pantalone, along with the Zanni, Il Dottore, Il Capitano, and others. Gianni can, perhaps, be thought of as an operatic Arthur Daley.

The ever-popular baritone, Nicholas Cannon, takes on the titular role. He is superb as the cunning Gianni, not only vocally, but in his facial expressions and the considerable physicality of his performance. He fills his Gianni with energy and humour in another of his captivating performances.

The Donati family are a far from pleasant crowd. The senior member is Simone, cousin of Buoso, portrayed by Peter Deane, and Meran Bow plays the slightly less senior member, Zita, another of Buoso's cousins. There's no shortage of experience and talent in this production, as these two ably demonstrate as the conniving heads of the family.

Lauretta, Gianni's 21-year-old daughter who is in love with Rinuccio, Zina's nephew, is sung by Gianna Guttilla, who is a delight and deserves every bit of the applause for her rendition of the aria, O mio babbino caro. Jiacheng Ding sings the role of Rinuccio, making a fine Price Charming, with more than a touch of larceny on the side. They are a very well-matched duo whose voices blend perfectly in their romantic moment together.

There is also very strong support throughout in the smaller roles. There's Marco, Simone's son, sung by Oliver Vickers, and La Ciesca, Marco's wife, sung by Bethany Eloise, Gherardo, Buoso's nephew, sung by Brock Roberts, and Nella, Gherardo's wife, sung by Jessica Mills, and Betto di Signa, Buoso's brother-in-law, sung by Macintyre Howie-Reeves. Together they all create a collection of the most avaricious and hilarious characters imaginable.

Rachel McCall is also kept busy, appearing as Gherardino, the seven-year-old son of Gherado and Nella, Doctor Spinelloccio, and the notary, Amantio di Nicolao, three much larger than life characters that add another level of laughter.

The two performances were, unfortunately, at the end of this tour, so you won't have the opportunity to see this production but, on the bright side, Co-Opera will be back soon with another opera, so be sure to book. In the meantime, look out for their Christmas concert at the North Adelaide Baptist Church on Saturday 26th November at 7pm. Book at https://www.trybooking.com/CCRKQ




From This Author - Barry Lenny


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