Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us
Puccini Gianni Schicchi

Corbelli, Giordano, Matthews, Palmer etc
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
(Glyndebourne 2004 production)
Opus Arte DVD OA0918 D

Comedy can be tricky to bring off when everyone knows the plot * and the pay-off (literally in the case of Gianni Schicchi).

Glyndebourne's 2004 production was highly acclaimed and has transferred splendidly to DVD, with marvellous camera work; all the singers are fine to watch in close-up and you'll catch more detail than would have been possible in the opera house. What a wonderful score it is is left in no doubt by Vladimir Jurowski's direction of the London Philharmonic.

Gianni Schicchi (Alessandro Corbelli) has a plastic face with expressive range that reminded me of Geraint Evans in his prime, and he is in complete command from the moment he enters. Schicchi's daughter Lauretta (Sally Matthews) and Rinuccio (Massimo Giordano) make a lovely pair of young lovers; she is captivating to look at, even when opening her mouth as wide as singer students are taught to do. Felicity Palmer dominates the hypocritical mourners with yet another fearsome portrayal of a society dragon. The whole is a triumph of ensemble acting and well worth watching and listening to again and again - it could convert doubters to opera?

Its companion on the night, sold separately on DVD, is Rachmaninov's Miserly Knight. [Opus Arte DVD OA 0919 D]. The liner notes tell us:
"the Baron keeps his son Albert in penury, compelling him to rely on moneylenders for finance and finally to throw himself on the mercy of the local feudal Duke. When the Duke confronts the Baron with his miserly greed, the Baron slanders Albert, is challenged to a duel and in a state of shock, collapses and dies. That is a full and accurate account of the action".

The orchestral score is sumptuous and the main reason for reviving that never popular one-acter. Despite Vladimir Jurowski's championship, and special pleading in the liner notes, I remain unconvinced that the tenuous links between the two make for a good double bill. I'd prefer to have it with Puccini's own Il Tabarro, whilst admitting to reservations about the intended tryptich with Suor Angelica - the threesome rarely given together.

I therefore defer to Hans-Theodor Wohlfahrt's review of the staged double last year. I agree with him that the 'aerialist' who intrudes on the prelude and shadows the Baron’s movements, symbolising his avarice, is redundant. She is better employed in Gianni Schicchi as Buoso Donati's corpse!

*- - At the Royal College of Music, 2002, Gianni Schicchi felt a long hour, but Kim Savelsbergh sang beautifully the only song that everyone knows O mio babbino caro and Jonathan Lemalu had the deceased's relatives, and all of us, in the palm of his hand - -

© Peter Grahame Woolf