Drama, emotion and musicality: Il Trittico at Det Kongelige Teater, Copenhagen

Puccini – Il Trittico 

Il tabarro
Michele – Marco di Felice

Luigi – Niels Jørgen Riis
Il Tinca – Adam Frandsen
Il Talpa – Sten Byriel
Giorgetta – Elizabeth Llewellyn
La Frugola – Hanne Fischer
Un venditore di canzonette – Lars Bo Ravnbak
Due amanti – Kristina Mkhitaryan, Gert Henning-Jensen

Suor Angelica
Suor Angelica – Elizabeth Llewellyn
La zia principessa – Susanne Resmark
La badessa – Hanne Fischer
La suora zelatrice – Elisabeth Halling
Suor Genovieffa – Signe Sneh Schreiber
Suor Osmina – Anne Sophie Hjort Ullner
Suor Dolcina – Mette Grosbøl Poulsen
La suora infermiera – Tuva Semmingsen

Gianni Schicchi
Gianni Schicchi – Marco di Felice

Lauretta – Kristina Mkhitaryan
Zita – Susanne Resmark
Rinuccio – Gert Henning-Jensen
Gherardo – Mogens Gert Hansen
Nella – Elsebeth Dreisig
Betto Di Signa – Morten Lassenius Kramp
Simone – Sten Byriel
Marco – Per Høyer
La Ciesca – Elisabeth Halling
Gherardino – Johan Wandall
Maestro Spinelloccio – Magnus Gislason
Amantio Di Nicolao – Simon Schelling

Det Kongelige Operakor, Det Kongelige Kapel / Giuliano Carella.

Stage director – Damiano Michieletto.

Operaen, Store Scene, Copenhagen.  Saturday, November 21st, 2015.

For this, my second visit to the wonderful Copenhagen opera house, it was time for some Puccini.  The weather was certainly brutal outside with driving freezing rain and strong winds but inside the atmosphere was much hotter.  Tonight gave that very special feeling of seeing a talented artist giving a role debut and not just singing it but completely becoming the character in every single way.  Tonight was also my second encounter with Damiano Michieletto following his variable Guillaume Tell at the London Royal Opera.  That particular show, it’s fair to say, was given a mixed reception.  I found it full of ideas but sadly tried to do too much and in doing so, failed to do anything.  Michieletto has a reputation of being one of the finest young directors out there today and I was eager to give his work a second viewing.

Elizabeth Llewellyn as Suor Angelica © Miklos Szabo
Elizabeth Llewellyn as Suor Angelica © Miklos Szabo

Having done so, I can honestly say that I agree with the assessment that he is one of the most promising young directors.  His Trittico is absolutely superb.  Il tabarro and Suor Angelica are played through, without a break, and interestingly Giorgetta and Angelica are effectively the same person.  The sisters in the convent are seen as having been diagnosed with mental illness, perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and as such Giorgetta/Angelica being sent to the convent to recover from her experiences makes for a highly convincing reading of the text.  Especially so, if we consider that her child could be that of her relationship with Luigi.  The sets (Paolo Fantin) are based on shipping containers.  Il tabarro is set with the action around the containers, later they rise and reveal the convent for Suor Angelica.  For Gianni Schicchi we see Buoso’s home organized around the shape of the containers and towards the end they revert back to being containers as Schicchi delivers his closing lines.  I have to say that the effect was magical – life returning to mundane reality after an evening in the theatre, an evening in which we laughed, cried and felt absolutely everything in between.

Ensemble in Suor Angelica © Miklos Szabo
Ensemble in Suor Angelica © Miklos Szabo

Personenregie was very well done and the show had clearly been revived with care by Anne Fugl, creating an ensemble cast that interacted in a completely credible way with each other.  It is without doubt a fantastic piece of theatre, a staging that is logical, emotional and highly musical.  Indeed, the Suor Angelica in particular moved me immensely, especially due to Elizabeth Llewellyn’s sensational debut in the title role.  There were so many details in the staging that combined to create its overwhelming impact – as the Zia Principessa arrives, she brings Angelica’s son along with her, the senior nuns pulling the son away so that he doesn’t see his mother.  Later, we see children’s clothes strewn across the stage, Angelica picking them up and washing them as if trying to remember what it was to be a mother.  At the end, as Angelica passes, the Zia Principessa returns as if having had a change of heart and Angelica’s son runs towards her as if to be reunited only to find her dead.  It was absolutely devastating to watch.  The stagings for Tabarro and Schicchi were somewhat more conventional although the young lovers in Tabarro indulged in some brief fellatio, as one might find on a Saturday evening, and the Schicchi was fluently done with Gherardino spending his time playing video games.

© Miklos Szabo
Susanne Resmark, Elisabeth Halling, Marco di Felice, Elsebeth Dreisig © Miklos Szabo

Musically it again demonstrated the extremely high standards the Royal Theatre holds for its ensemble and guests.  Elizabeth Llewellyn’s role debuts were absolutely thrilling.  She was a fine Giorgetta but it was really as Angelica that she gave a truly overwhelming performance.  The voice has a beguiling combination of duskiness and velvety warmth.  It’s a good size and she rode the orchestra with ease.  She sounds slightly short at the very top but that’s a minor quibble given the total dedication of her performance tonight.  Her Angelica was shattering, her acting completely raw and so immediate, her vocalism so full and generous that one could not help but be moved.  This is a significant role debut for this excellent British soprano, one I hope she will return to very soon.  Her Zia Principessa was Susanne Resmark who completely chewed up the scenery in her role.  Yes, the registers weren’t integrated but she was so magnetic and her chemistry with Llewellyn so unmistakable and one was just transported.  Her Zita was excellent, this time dispatched in a fruity contralto with a wonderful sense of humour.

© Miklos Szabo
Elizabeth Llewellyn as Suor Angelica © Miklos Szabo

Llewellyn’s Luigi was Niels Jørgen Riis.  He is the owner of an interesting voice.  The sound is somewhat reedy and arguably a size too small for the role but he certainly gave it everything he had and held his own with his colleagues.  In Gianni Schicchi we were introduced to Gert Henning-Jensen’s excellent Riunccio sung in a light lyric tenor with an easy top.  Marco di Felice was announced as indisposed but it would have been hard to tell.  He sounded that he was holding back in the more declamatory sections of Michele’s part but otherwise his was a strong and convincing portrayal of the character.  His Gianni Schicchi was also terrific, displaying fine comic timing and delivered in a warm and eloquent baritone, that genuinely sounded in decent shape.  If this is what di Felice sounds like when he’s indisposed I’d certainly like to hear him at full strength.  His delivery of Schicchi’s closing lines was magical, the Italian warmth and generosity coming through.

Marco di Felice & Niels Jørgen Riis © Miklos Szabo
Marco di Felice & Niels Jørgen Riis © Miklos Szabo

In the remainder of the supporting casts I was impressed by Kristina Mkhitaryan who delivered Lauretta’s aria with an easy line and impressive warmth of tone.  Signe Sneh Schreiber also impressed with her crystalline ease of production and highly convincing acting.  Hanne Fischer brought her admirable mezzo to her roles and indeed the entire cast were testament to the very high standards the Royal Theatre maintains.

Kristina Mkhitaryan & Gert Henning-Jensen © Miklos Szabo
Kristina Mkhitaryan & Gert Henning-Jensen © Miklos Szabo

The proof of these standards is certainly evident in the outstanding house band.  The quality of the playing was unmistakable, the sound big, bold and rich.  Every section sounded thrilling in the generous acoustic of the house and they had a corporate personality that certainly shone through.  They were conducted with genuine Italianate spirit by Giuliano Carella.  His was a reading that gave the voices lots of space but also allowed the orchestra to bloom where necessary.  He was alive to the sweep of the first two operas but also to the marvellous quicksilver changes of mood in the Schicchi.  The brief contributions of the choruses also had unmistakable quality.

© Miklos Szabo
Ensemble in Gianni Schicchi © Miklos Szabo

Tonight was one of those very special nights in the theatre where one seems to experience every possible emotion.  We were given an exhilarating interpretation of the work by a fine young director and ensemble singing from a cast who seemed to live every moment.  We were also given a significant role debut for a highly gifted soprano.  This is a true company achievement for the Royal Theatre and is certainly more than worth a trip to Copenhagen.  It is, without doubt, a show worth seeing.





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