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Thread: Il Trittico by Puccini at Opera Carolina

          
   
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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Il Trittico by Puccini at Opera Carolina

    Il Trittico, triptych of one-act operas sung in Italian, with music by Giacomo Puccini
    Il Tabarro, libretto by Giuseppe Adami; Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, libretti by Giovacchino Forzano
    Premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on December 14, 1918

    Production by Opera Carolina, at the Belk Theater, NC Blumenthal Performance Arts Center in Charlotte, NC; performed in Italian with English subtitles

    The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Meena
    The Opera Carolina Chorus
    Jay Lesenger, director
    Eric Renschler, set design for Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi originally for Chautauqua Opera
    Tim Parati, set design for Il Tabarro
    Michael Baumgarten, lighting/video
    Martha Ruskai, wigs/make-up

    Cast

    Jill Gardner, Giorgetta/Suor Angelica
    Chen-Ye Yuan, Michele/Gianni Schichhi
    Dongwon Shin, Luigi
    Victor Ryan Robertson, Tinca/Rinuccio
    Don Hartman, Talpa/Simone
    Susan Nicely, Frugola/La Princepessa/Zita
    Kimberly Butler, Suor Genovieffa
    Megan Miller, La Abadessa
    Melinda Whittington, Lauretta
    Charles Lang, Dottor Spinellocio
    Daidree Tofano, a novice, La Ciesca
    Danielle Messina, Nella
    And 19 other singing roles by various comprimarios
    27 chorus members
    4 supernumeraries

    ---------------

    This review is of the opening night on January 18, 2014. The show also runs on January 23 and 26. For
    tickets, click [here]. Also read two interviews that are part of our coverage, and are *extremely* insightful and informative, really adding a lot to the understanding of these three operas: Jill Gardner's [here], and Victor Ryan Robertson's [here].

    ---------------

    Opera Carolina's courage as a regional company in staging a set of three operas with 38 singing roles, 27 chorus members, and 5 supernumeraries for a total of 70 performers on stage is remarkable. One must say that the effort paid off. The evening was largelly successful, in spite of a few quibbles.

    It started relatively cold, with a Tabarro that seemed a bit pale and lacking some pizazz. Even Jill Gardner, who was the brightest star of the night, appeared somewhat uninvolved as Giorgetta, as if saving herself for the spectacular tour-de-force she delivered later on in the evening in the role of Sister Angelica. Dongwon Shin was unconvincing as Luigi and lacked chemistry with Jill, with a voice that sounded too thin and light for the role (or maybe he was just not having a good vocal night, which as we know happens to singers from time to time).

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    Dongwon Shin and Jill Gardner - photo credit jonsilla.com

    Chen-Ye Yuan as Michele was better, but the best singer in the first opera was Victor Ryan Robertson, who seemed to be into his character (Tinca) to a greater degree than his peers, displaying the most genuine and believable acting. The sets for Il Tabarro were nice but with a shortcoming; they utilized some columns and arcs that didn't look Parisian at all (see part of these arcs in the picture below in Gianni Schicchi, surrounding the wall closet), but rather Italianate (unsurprisingly, since they were originally designed for the other two operas, which are set in Italy). Maybe a better solution would have been a more minimalistic approach, simply doing away with thoses arcs and columns, and keeping just the barge with the Notre Dame background. Maybe this is nitpicking, but the supertitles translator rendered the Italian word sgualdrina as 'unfaithful,' when 'whore' (which is what the word means) would have had more impact.

    The pit wasn't responsible for the lack of colors: maestro Meena as usual lead the fine Charlotte Symphony by memory, and beautifully rendered Puccini's intricate score for Il Tabarro with its rich tone painting. It was on the stage that things didn't seem to click, although they did improve in the second half of the opera, thanks to a well performed final scene between Jill and Chen-Ye Yuan. Still, applause was subdued.

    Given that Il Tabarro is my favorite Trittico opera, by its end I was a bit apprehensive for the quality of the evening. I didn't need to be, because as soon as as the second opera rolled in, the stage caught fire. Jill Gardner was simply phenomenal as the tortured nun, both vocally and in her acting.

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    Jill Gardner - photo credit jonsilla.com

    Her pungent and fierce performance and her purity of tone drew oohs and aahs from the audience, and some tears. Susan Nicely was just as good as La Principessa, and the confrontation scene between the two women was a thing of beauty, and the best I've seen for this opera. The scenery matched much better the place and time (OK, now those Italianate arcs and columns came in handy), and the final scene was wonderful: I had goosebumps when the central doors of the convent opened up to show a luminous live statue of the Virgin Mary, who opened her arms to let out Angelica's son.

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    Photo credit jonsilla.com

    Kimberly Butler was a fine Sister Genovieffa, and the maestro and his orchestra played sublime sounds. The frenetic standing ovation at the end was arguably the most intense I've seen at Opera Carolina. It was a remarkable performance. I used to hold Suor Angelica, the opera, in low esteem. Well, I changed my mind, and in great measure thanks to Jill Gardner. I had the pleasure of meeting this fine artist again in the after-party, and she was very pleased with the audience's reaction. Jill was justifiably elated with what she had just done - her first Suor Angelica, as close to perfect as it gets. It is not every day that you see the audience being delirious about Suor Angelica, which in spite of having been Puccini's favorite, is often neglected by the Tabarro and Schicchi-loving public. Well, not this time. This Angelica was the high point of the evening.

    Gianni Schicchi was also very well presented by Opera Carolina. The scenery was even more beautiful despite using the same set-up, but with some more lively details. Costumes and wigs were great.

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    Photo credit jonsilla.com

    Chen-Ye Yuan who was just correct as Michele, was much better as Schicchi. Susan Nicely, the only singer in all three operas, was again extremely good, with great comedic flair. Theatrical aspects such as acting and blocking were of high quality in the third opera, with interesting touches that demonstrated good stage direction by Mr. Lesenger (such as the hilarious silent mouthing of the will by Zita). Melinda Whittington sang a beautiful 'O mio babbino caro.'

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    Victor Ryan Roberson on the left; Chen-Ye Yuan and Melinda Whittington
    The 'O mio babbino caro' moment
    Photo credit jonsilla.com


    Charles Lang was a very funny doctor, and another good comprimario was Daidree Tofano as La Ciesca. Victor again did well, with his voice being well suited to the tessitura of the Rinuccio role. Applause for Schicchi while not as wild as for Angelica, was still very intense, and confirmed the audience's satisfaction with the production.

    After a slow start, Opera Carolina rapidly progressed to the high standards we're accustomed to expect from the company. Probably the stage director will correct the relative lack of energy by the Tabarro cast, and then the first part will be as good as the other two, in subsequent performances.

    The global experience of the evening was supplemented by a delicious pre-opera dinner at a nearby wine bistro (The Wooden Wine; I recommend it; click [here], they have great tapas and excellent wines by-the-glass), with good value as part of the Charlotte Restaurant Week (a $30 prix-fix three-course meal, pictures below), and a nice after-party with the fine Mediterranean cuisine at Blue Restaurant and Bar [here], enjoying Opera Carolina's hospitality and mingling with the artists. [This is not product placement - I don't benefit from this; I'm just adding these two restaurant recommendations - both are one block from the theater - to enhance the night-out-in-town experience of our Charlotte-area readers].

    I told my wife at the end: "This was as much fun as a trip to New York." She agreed - and my wife adores the Big Apple! Those at driving distance from Charlotte shouldn't miss the opportunity for a night in town being treated do great opera and to other attractions of this wonderful Southern city. There are still two more performances to go (on January 23-26), and tickets are still available.

    Dinner at The Wooden Vine (personal pictures):

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    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 19th, 2014 at 07:02 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. Likes MAuer, Clayton, Amfortas liked this post
  3. #2
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Glad you've finally come around to Suor Angelica. Next stop: Parsifal!

  4. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    Glad you've finally come around to Suor Angelica. Next stop: Parsifal!
    You know that I love the music of Parsifal; just, not the libretto... But I have purchased a DVD of it with one of my favorite singers, Waltraud Meier, which is still on my unwatched pile. Maybe Meier will change my mind just like Gardner did.

    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 19th, 2014 at 07:05 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  5. #4
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    I've got this DVD; Nikolaus Lehnhoff's much-traveled production is now a Regie classic. Some puzzling visual choices (particularly in Act II), but the representation of the Grail Knights as a dying order clinging to empty rituals is profoundly moving, leading to a memorable final image.

    Sorry to hijack the thread.

  6. #5
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Oh wow, I started putting this together last night, using the mini-wireless keyboard for my new Samsung tablet Galaxy Tab 3, 7 inches; first time I used it, and it resulted in a large number of typos. They've been corrected, now. It will take some adjusting to type on that tiny thingy - but I love the tablet. It's great to travel for opera coverage taking this very small tablet instead of my bulky laptop. Oh wait, soon enough people will think I'm product-placing again.

    Disclaimer - I don't get any money or freebies from Samsung, The Wooden Vine, or Blue Restaurant and Bar!

    But the tablet is cute, look at it!

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    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #6
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    My clumsy fingers could never adjust to that keyboard!

  8. #7
    Senior Member Involved Member StLukesGuildOhio's Avatar
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    Is that keyboard one of those keyboard cases that connects to the device with Bluetooth? I have such on my i-pad. I like the protection the keyboard/case offers to the pad... but I actually far prefer the internal touch-screen keyboard on the i-pad itself. I allows me to type far better than either the Bluetooth keyboard or the i-phone (too small)... although the desk-top with a full keyboard is still the best. I agree that the pad is great. I take it everywhere. I can e-mail my lesson plans for teaching to myself. I've pulled up images for kids to look at in connection with a given lesson. I even use it as a means of carrying a vast quantity of reference photos to my studio where in the past I had to go through a fortune in ink to do so. I can even edit these same images on the pad... if, for example, I wanted to use the upper torso and arms from a given photo... but needed to reverse the image... a few seconds and Voila! My studio mate hates technology... indeed, he's certain the computer is but a fad... but I love it.
    "Suppose you were an idiot ... And suppose you were a member of
    Congress .. But I repeat myself." -Mark Twain

  9. #8
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Yes, it's a bluetooth keyboard. I think typing on it is a question of getting used to it. I'll likely get better at it. I can't type as fast on the on-screen keyboard.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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