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Singing Soap Operas,
This review is from: Puccini: Il Trittico [Opus Arte: OA1070D] [DVD]  [NTSC]  (DVD)
Opera on DVD is a hit and miss affair. Transfers rarely replicate the original scale and power. Yet there are corners of the repertoire that work exceptionally well on screen. Puccini, in all his soap-opera-cum-opera glory, is at the top of that list. And, given the dramatic and musical concision of Il trittico, Richard Jones's incisive and uncynical 2011 production for The Royal Opera turns out spectacular when seen and heard up close.
Having popped up on BBC4 on three consecutive Fridays during the Spring, Opus Arte has now released the production on a three-disc set. Il tabarro is played out in a post-Genet world of blackness and resentment. As in the theatre, Lucio Gallo proves a glowering Michele. Jones and his Giorgetta Eva-Maria Westbroek might have found just a ray of hope in the story but, as Antonio Pappano indicates from the pit, this is a decidedly bleak curtain raiser.
Suor Angelica provided a real surprise live. Its mawkish sensibilities would normally have prompted world-weariness from Jones. But, while he keeps religion at a distance, the production never doubts the sincerity of its characters, with Ermonela Jaho amazing in the title role. Goaded by Anna Larsson's Princess, a statuesque treacle-voiced gorgon if ever there was one, Jaho unleashes her frustrations before singing a markedly bruised 'Senza Mamma'.
After that wash of tears comes the palate cleanser of Gianni Schicchi. This is the best move from stage to screen. Like an episode of a downtrodden soap, Buoso Donati's relatives are played out in all their Technicolor hideousness. But Jones never overplays his hand and Puccini's superb triptych ends on a remarkably wistful note (again captured well by Pappano and the ROH orchestra). Given the considerable endeavour in staging this masterpiece, it may take a while to be revived. Meantime these films offer a happy reminder of a great night at the opera.