Three one-acts. Three masterpieces. Il trittico was Puccini's penultimate work. Conceived during World War One, it appeared around the end of a long period of dormancy for the maestro, and was followed only by the unfinished Turandot, after yet another long hiatus, one lasting eight years.
Three separate operas, which are not organically linked to one another: Il tabarro tells the tale of a love triangle set in the oppressive atmosphere of a boat rocking along the banks of the Seine. Set at Easter time, Suor Angelica relates a tragedy unfolding at a convent, while the comic Gianni Schicchi was inspired by a mediaeval Florentine whose sly means of enriching himself were described by Dante himself in The Inferno. Three fantastic pieces directed by Ferenc Anger, with a magnificent cast.
"Everyone has a cloak that sometimes hides joy, and sometimes pain..."
Along the banks of the Seine the barge belonging to the merchant Michele lies moored: he lives his life on this boat with his young wife, Giorgetta, shipping cargo from one city to the other. After the death of their young child, the woman grew cold toward her husband: although Michele still loves his wife, Giorgetta is secretly carrying on an affair with the young stevedore Luigi.
Holding his extinguished pipe, Michele watches the sun set over Paris while his wife is busy with housework. With her husband's permission, she brings out wine to offer to the labourers. Michele asks his wife for a kiss, but she avoids his embrace. The man withdraws into the bowels of the boat.
Luigi, the drunkard Tinca, the "Tench", and the rickety Talpa, the "Mole", step on deck with the other tired dockers. The wine has everyone in a good mood, and an organ-grinder also appears on the bank: Luigi follows the clumsy Tinca in leading Giorgetta in a dance to the artificial music. The appearance of Michele brings the dance to an end. The workers return to finish the loading, and the ill-humoured Michele questions his wife what's wrong and why she is always silent, but to no avail. Talpa's wife, Frugola, the "Magpie", comes out to the barge before her husband, proudly showing off to Giorgetta the various treasures she scavenged earlier in the day and speaks boastfully of her cat, Caporale. The labourers finish with their work. Frugola rebukes Tinca for rushing off to the pub so early, but the man defends himself by saying it is better to drown his pain and anger in drink than to go home to his faithless wife. Luigi bitterly tells him the truth: it's better not to think, just to work with head down and to take solace in stolen love. The Frugola longs simply for a little house with a garden, where she and Talpa and Caporale can spend their golden years. Giorgetta, however, has a different dream. She has had enough of this vagabond life and yearns to return to the pleasant Paris suburb of Belleville, where she and Luigi were both born. Luigi and Giorgetta are left to themselves. They lovingly recall their secret assignation of the night before, constantly watching out in case Michele steps out of the boat. Luigi can hardly bear to think that the woman he loves is the wife of another; that's why when Michele appears, he asks his employer to take him to Rouen so that he can try his luck there. Michele, however, talks him out of it since there is less work there than in Paris.
When Luigi and the woman are alone again they discuss another rendezvous for that night. The signal will be the same as for the previous night: Giorgetta will light a match. Luigi departs, and Michele comes out on deck. Sadly, the man asks his wife, "Why don't you love me any longer?" He recalls how happily they were a year earlier, snuggled together out of the cold underneath a great cloak. The three of them, with their little baby. Giorgetta goes to sleep in order to end the chatting and the questioning, but both of them know that Giorgetta is no longer able to sleep...
Michele remains alone on the dark deck. In the distance, a couple in love are bidding each other farewell. From the cabin window, Michele watches Giorgetta jealously: the woman has not undressed – she is waiting for somebody... but for whom? Immersed in thought, he lights his pipe, and Luigi mistakes the flaring flame for the signal: in the dark night, he steps onto the deck. Michele grabs him, recognises him, and mercilessly wrings a confession out of the young man: he loves Giorgetta. Michelle killes Luigi, and as his wife steps out of the cabin he hides the corpse slumped against him in the cloak. Now acting seductively, Giorgetta attempts to cuddle up against her husband. Michele cruelly opens his cloak in order to embrace her, and Luigi's lifeless body crashes to the floor.
In an Italian convent, at Easter, in May.
The sisters are saying a Hail Mary. Two lay sisters and Sister Angelica arrive late for the prayer.
After the evening prayer, the Monitress upbraids the two lay sisters for not showing remorse for being late, as Sister Angelica did. The Monitress also upbraids two other nuns: one for laughing at the prayer and thus making others laugh, and Sister Osmina for hiding a red rose in the sleeve of her habit. Sister Osmina denies the accusation and storms angrily out of her cell.
During the rest period, Sister Genovieffa merrily points out to everyone that this evening is the first of three evenings when after prayers the sun hits the fountain at a certain angle that causes the water in the spring to turn golden. The nuns are saddened to think of their recently deceased compatriot, Bianca Rosa. Genovieffa suggests that they take some of the golden water to Bianca Rosa's grave, since she is surely longing for it. The Monitress immediately remarks that one must not live in the hope of desires. Sister Genovieffa innocently admits that she has a desire: before becoming a nun, she was a shepherdess, and for five years she hasn't seen a lamb – she'd like to see one and pet it. The gluttonous Sister Dolcina is also about to confess her own desire, but the sisters interrupt her: they are already well aware that she is always craving tasty things to eat! Sister Genovieffa turns to Sister Angelica to ask her whether she has a desire. Sister Angelica answers that she does not, but the others whisper behind her back: "Of course she has a desire! She hasn't had any news from her family for seven years." In hushed voices, they inform the novices that Angelica comes from a noble and wealthy family, but was placed in the convent by her relatives in order to punish her. The gossiping of the nuns is cut short when the Nursing Sister rushes in breathlessly: another nun has been stung by wasps, and they need help from Angelica, who has a solid understanding of plants and herbs. Angelica quickly gathers a few herbs and gives her instructions for making a brew out of them.
The return of the tourières.
The two alms sisters arrive back at the convent, bringing news that a fine coach is standing in front of the gate – somebody has received a visitor. Sister Angelica is disturbed to hear the news. The Abbess announces that a visitor has come for Sister Angelica: her aunt, the Princess.
The Princess enters the parlatory. She was the one who raised Angelica after the girl's parents died 20 years earlier. She has come because Angelica's younger sister is to be married, and the family's estate has to be divided. For this, Angelica's consent is required. In her excitement, the joyful Angelica asks who her sister is marrying. "One who out of love pardons the disgrace you have brought on our family's unblemished crest." Seven years earlier, Angelica bore a son out of wedlock who was taken from her, while she was placed in the convent. Despairing, Angelica asks about her son. The Princess reveals that the child died from an illness two years earlier. Angelica collapses, but then signs the paper dividing the estate. The princess departs.
Angelica is inconsolable thinking about her little boy, who had to live and die without his mother and who is now looking down from heaven as an angel. Angelica feels that heaven has absolved her, and is left with only one wish: to be together with her child again in death. She prepares a poison.
No sooner has Angelica taken the poison than she is filled with remorse: by longing to be with her son she has committed a mortal sin, for which she must repent. She begs the Holy Virgin for mercy. The miracle takes place: accompanied by a chorus of angels, the Virgin Mother appears to the dying woman to give her her son back.
Florence, 1 September 1299
The body of the recently deceased wealthy nobleman Buoso Donati lies on the deathbed surrounded by relatives there to mourn him, or more properly speaking, to angle for his inheritance. They have good reason to worry, and not just because they are a big family: there are rumours going around the area that Buoso has left his entire estate to a monastery. They turn over the entire house in search of his will. The document is found at last by the young Rinuccio, who makes his Aunt Zita promise him that if there is enough money for him, he can marry his love, Lauretta. As it turns out, the gossip is true: Buoso Donati has left all of his money to the monks. Rinuccio counsels the despairing relations to seek the help of Lauretta's father, Gianni Schicchi, the low-born "businessman" who has nevertheless prospered from his own wits. Schicchi arrives with his daughter. Meeting, however, with arrogance, disdain and antipathy from the noble family, he is about to depart when his daughter speaks directly to his heart: she will die if she can't marry Rinuccio! Schicchi agrees to the game. The plan is ready: they have to get rid of the body, and he himself will play the dying Donati in front of the notary. Suddenly the doctor knocks on the door: he is there to examine the extremely ill Donati. In a different voice, Schicchi assures the doctor that he is better now. Schicchi sends the relatives to summon the notary, and then wearing Donati's sleeping cap on his head proceeds to dictate his final will and testament. The relatives each try to bribe Schicchi to favour them over the other relatives, and Schicchi nods at each of them, reminding them separately that they must forever remain silent about the ruse, or they'll be taken from Florence in chains for fraud. The notary arrives, and Schicchi dictates his will, but to everyone's mute astonishment, leaves most of the inheritance, as well as Donati's house in Florence, to himself, Gianni Schicchi! The family rages, but they cannot say a word lest the deception be discovered. When the notary departs, they fall on Schicchi and steal what they can, but Schicchi ejects them from his newly acquired house and looks with satisfaction at the loving couple, Rinuccio and Lauretta – the true winners of the trick.