Gianni Schicchi, Puccini’s only comedy, was the last in his penultimate opera, Il Trittico, premiered in New York in 1918.Schicchi, often performed separately, tells of a money-grabbing family undone by an unscrupulous lawyer. Apart from the lawyer, the only people to emerge unscathed are Schicchi’s daughter Lauretta (she of O mio babbino caro fame) and her lover Rinuccio.
Puccini was an entertainer. He didn’t moralise in the way Verdi did, but his operas, despite years of sniffing from the musical establishment remain brilliant creations, with remarkable melodies and superb orchestrations. His flair for the dramatic is ever present and the matching of music to text is remarkable. Rinuccio’s glorious aria in praise of Florence, for example, is tucked seamlessly into the narrative.
Woody Allan directs adroitly, his added treats in no way undermining the work. The busy cast perform well, and although the days are long gone when opera singers could stand like statues, opera ‘acting’ still hovers. This is especially noticeable when the camera closes in on the action. Sadly, the audio recording is dead dull and the orchestra under Grant Gershon, performs perfunctorily. So buy it for Domingo’s saturnine Schicchi and Allen’s clever production.