Review: Il Tabarro & Gianni Schicchi, English Touring Opera, Snape Maltings, April 15

It was pleasing to see encouragingly full houses on both evenings for the visit of English Touring Opera. On Friday there were performances of Il Tabarro and Gianni Schicchi, the outer works of Puccini’s Trittico, a trio of short operas intended for performance together but often separated.

Il Tabarro is an effective, moody tale of personal tragedy, illicit love and murderous revenge set on the Paris banks of the Seine. Conductor Michael Rosewell perfectly captured the gentle undulations of the river in the opening bars and the end of day drinking and dancing was enlivened by an organ-grinder.

Julie Unwin was excellent as Giorgetta, the younger wife of the barge-owner, Michele. Already burdened with the death of their young child and yearning to return to the Paris suburb of her upbringing she not only sang with force and clarity but trod a subtle line between passion for her younger lover Luigi, effectively sung by Charne Rochford, and a bruised woman seeking solace.

Simon Thorpe as Michele piloted the work to its terrible conclusion with a well-controlled crescendo of fury. The other singers made their mark, particularly Clarissa Meek as the scavenging Frugola, in a convincing and satisfying performance.

Gianni Schicchi was an immediate success and has remained so, often performed apart from its companions.


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The whole performance, the beginning especially, was a great credit to director, Liam Steel who quickly turned affected solemnity into tightly organised chaos as the several surviving relatives of Buoso Donati took up the search for his will. The orchestra again responded well with sharply pointed and characterful playing under Michael Rosewell’s baton.

Naturally the success of the work hinges to a large extent on Schicchi himself and Richard Mosley-Evans was fully equal to the task, both musically and dramatically. Without ostentation he took control of the floundering relatives whilst keeping the humour alive. Paula Sides gave a surging account of O mio babbino caro and formed a fine partnership with the equally impressive Ashley Catling as Rinuccio. The ending was brilliantly choreographed, the hidden body of Donati falling out of its hiding place as four boxes of fire welcomed Schicchi to his deserved torment. A superbly entertaining and riveting performance.

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Gareth Jones

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