OPERA NEWS - Il Trittico
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Il Trittico

VIENNA
Theater an der Wien
10/10/12

Audiences have grudgingly become accustomed to stage directors altering elements of opera librettos.  Sometimes their ideas for change are so brilliant they seem to improve upon the original.  So it was when Damiano Michieletto not only triumphantly updated Il Trittico at Theater an der Wien, but made significant changes to Suor Angelica (seen Oct. 10).

Il Tabarro was set in a sweltering warehouse for shipping containers, providing lots of nooks and crannies for illicit encounters.  Giorgetta, in a low-cut Anna Magnani house dress, sponged herself down with cold water and danced with Luigi, both grasping a beer can until it exploded, covering the two with foam. Michele is obsessed with their dead child, still rolling the pram across the stage and clutching the baby's booties.  In his monologue "Nulla … silenzio," he shone a flashlight into the faces of Giorgetta's suspected lovers as he ponders each name, the men hovering around him like zombies.  When Giorgetta discovers Luigi's body, she screamed hysterically. And when you expect the curtain to fall, it doesn't.

The containers morphed into what appears to be a badly-kept insane asylum as the still screaming Giorgetta/Angelica is thrust into a chair, her dress ripped off and replaced by a filthy grey dressing gown, and her hair hacked off with scissors. The other inmates go about their tasks overseen by an extremely large, masculine woman in uniform.

When Angelica's aunt arrives, swathed in fur and designer accessories, she brings along Angelica's son to visit his mother, but seeing her condition, has the boy snatched away. As Angelica's behavior grows wilder, hurling every piece of furniture not bolted down, her aunt sadistically tells her the details of her son's death. Angelica slashes her wrists and dies in a circle of little boys in short pants.

The containers are again reconfigured into Buoso Donati's eye-popping apartments, every wall covered with the kind of flocked wallpaper favored by Italian restaurants in the 1960s, and filled with the kind of bad art and furniture favored by people with lots of money and no taste. It is here that the entire cast lets go and delivers a performance worthy of a Marx Brothers epic farce. At the end, Schicchi shoves the pugilistic heirs against a wall as the set returns to its original configuration, locking them in a shipping container.

Patricia Racette gave a harrowing, utterly astounding marathon performance, offering a sultry, sex-starved Giorgetta and pathetic, wildly bipolar Angelica without a break. So committed was she that notes occasionally cracked or veered off pitch, but none of it mattered: Racette's unwavering intensity went beyond mere singing. Roberto Frontali was an imposing, lyrical Michele, and a raucous Schicchi. Almost stealing the evening was Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Angelica's spiteful aunt, and an insanely funny Zita. Also outstanding were Maxim Aksenov's sexy Luigi, Andrew Ownes as the sweet-voiced Song Seller, Paolo Fanale's ardent Rinuccio, and Maurizio Lo Piccolo's decrepit Simone. Rani Calderon drew gorgeous playing from the RSO-Wien, highlighting the evocative Puccinian details that define each opera. spacer

LARRY L. LASH

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