by Mike Telin

OPT-Trittico-IIThis past weekend in the Gordon Square Theatre at Cleveland Public Theatre, the always resourceful Opera Per Tutti completed its cycle of the three operas comprising Puccini’s “Il Trittico” with engaging productions of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, skillfully directed by Scott Skiba. The company performed the first opera of the Triptych, Il Tabarro, in October 2010.

Watching other people’s dysfunctional families unravel before your eyes has been a source of entertainment since, well probably since there have been people. And in opera, while there is plenty of dysfunction to go around, the family of deceased Buoso Donati, could easily rival, if not outdo the Kardashians in their unbridled attempt to secure their share of the family fortune. A fortune which Buoso Donati has left to the monastery.

What’s a family to do except change the will. Enter Gianni Schicchi and let the mayhem begin. And keeping the mayhem under control is where director Skiba succeeded beautifully. While there was plenty of running around on the stage and throughout the theatre, the characters never stepped on one another physically or vocally.

While the entire cast portrayed their characters convincingly, it was the performance of bass-baritone Brian Keith Johnson in the title role that held you at the edge of your seat. Johnson’s comedic side bloomed throughout, and his colleagues reacted in kind. Johnson’s portrayal of Buoso Donati during the re-writing of the will was inspired. Even if you knew the story, you were still surprised when the conniving Schicchi left the fortune to himself. Rachel Copland in the role of Lauretta delivered “O mio babbino caro,” with a richly focused voice, which added the needed respite from the noisy family feud.

Suor Angelica, which began the performance, tells the story of Angelica, who was placed in a convent by her family after she had become pregnant out of wedlock. Angelica’s aunt, her first visitor in seven years, arrives in order to force Angelica to give up her inheritance. Angelica also learns that her son has died causing her to commit suicide only to realize she has committed mortal sin. Angelica prays for forgiveness and is welcomed into heaven by her child.

Soprano Andrea Anelli performed the role of Angelica with aplomb. Her pleasingly focused voice brought exquisite expressiveness to musical lines. Anelli’s “Senza mamma,” was mesmerizing. Alana Kolb, in the role of the Princess, Angelica’s Aunt, was heartless, and her voice projected with the appropriate sternness.

Skiba’s staging, while simple, worked quite well. And he took full advantage of the set, a series of platforms with white draperies, creating conversation areas for the nuns. As with Schicchi, the cast of Suor Angelica was strong. Skiba made the wise decision to have the chorus sing from the theatre lobby which added a special feeling of other-worldliness to the opera.

Conductor Anthony Addison kept things moving in all the right ways during both operas. Addison clearly knows how to communicate the score and the coordination between the pit and the stage were in pleasant harmony with one another. The orchestra, in a reduction for strings, percussion and piano produced a full-bodied sound and were attentive collaborators.

I attended Sunday afternoon’s performance, which drew a capacity audience. It was great to see so many people enjoying opera in the very pleasing acoustics of the Gordon Square Theatre.

Published on April 23, 2013

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