We know that opera can be a terrifying experience…. It’s one of the reasons we started this blog! But we strive to show you that opera is not the terrifyingly daunting experience people think it is. In fact, like most theatre, it can actually be quite fun! To help make this possibly new experience less scary, we bring you a new section to our blog. In addition to Vocal Voyages, we shall be writing What To Expect. What To Expect will focus on explaining operas to you in a way you’ll understand, and will hopefully be less confusing than some synopses you may read on the internet. To begin this new blog, it made sense to write about the up and coming WA Opera production for Opera In The Park: Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.
Gianni Schicchi (Jar-Knee Ski-Key) is a comic opera in one act, sung in Italian. Written in 1918, this opera is the perfect opportunity for you and your friends to dip your toes into this incredibly moving world (Remembering of course, there are surtitles for the Italian!)
PLOT: The opera begins with the Donati family mourning the passing of their patriarch, Buoso. The family are anxious about the property he may have left them in his will, only to then discover that his immense fortune has been left to a monastery. Rinuccio, who is mad over heels in love with Lauretta, suggests that Gianni Schicchi, a self-made lower class man, should be called to help them (We find out that Gianni Schicchi is Lauretta’s father). In a series of hilarious hijinks, secret deals, and one ridiculous plan, the family convinces Buoso’s doctor and the notary into thinking Gianni Schicchi is Buoso. When the time comes, we find out that Gianni Schicchi has taken every grand part of the fortune to himself, threatening the family with legal penalties if they reveal anything. He reminds the audience that although his fraud has made him rich and humbled the foolish family, it has also brought together the lovers, Lauretta and Rinuccio.
Still not sure what’s going on in this opera? We’ve included a quick summary of the characters and their links in the story:
MUSIC: This short opera features music that could easily be heard in the much longer operas of Puccini. There are moments within the Donati family that remind me of Madama Butterfly, Cio-Cio San, and her relatives, and the majestic tenor lines could be easily mistaken for Ridolfo’s music in La Boheme. It is within this short, hour-long opera that we hear one of the popular Puccini arias, often considered as one of the most well known operatic arias: O Mio Babbino Caro. If you come to the opera, you will get the opportunity to hear it in context, but I couldn’t resist a sneaky Mr Bean reference here today:
Whilst this is a fantastic aria, there is a lot that this opera offers to its audience. A personal favourite moment of mine is the tenor aria, Firenze è come un albero fiorito. It features moments of O Mio Babbino Caro, but mainly gives the tenor playing Rinuccio the opportunity to show of his high notes and power! Here I’ve included a recording of the brilliant Juan Diego Florez, showing off the incredible ‘PING’ to his voice.
So why should you come along?
There is nothing quite like watching a live opera. If it is a new and scary thing to you, this is your chance to try something new! Gianni Schicchi is a brilliant show for first time goers and provides the laughs that you will find often in opera (Surprise! Our characters aren’t always dying!). What you will also find is incredible music written a hundred years ago by an Italian composer who inspires many film composers and opera/musical theatre composers to this day. Puccini’s music is so incredibly familiar and exciting, you’ll wonder whether you’ve heard it before. So make yourself a picnic, pick up your friends, and come on down to WA Opera’s Opera In The Park for an enjoyable night of opera. After all, what’s there to lose?
Written by Katherine Goyder