BCA Youth Forum visit English Touring Opera's Gianni Schicchi
Mahmoud from BCA Youth Forum reviews ENO's recent production Gianni Schicchi:
At Buoso Donati’s deathbed - the Donati family convene, first in hope and then consternation. Hope for the anticipated wealth Donati’s will may have bequeathed to each of them, and consternation as they eventually discover that Donati has in fact left all his wealth to the monks of Signa.
Unfavourably written out of the will, they fetch the eponymous Gianni Schicchi, played by Andrew Slater, a lawyer whose daughter, Lauretta, is to get married into the Donati family. Seeing an opportunity to bend the law, the family plead with Schicchi to concoct a new, more favourable will that divides Donati’s estate and the prized mule to the various family members. Schicchi agrees but ensues to devise his own cunning plans.
The ETO’s costume, make up and set design team do a fantastic job. Schicchi’s costume, a three-piece working man’s suit, is a distinct contrast the family who adorn caricatured white-painted faces that function as comedic masks (in the commedia dell’arte style); perhaps in reflection of their extreme avarice and greed compared to Schicchi’s seemingly unassuming motives (yet he turns out to be the most ingenious schemer of them all).
As a novice opera watcher - the set design worked really well in enhancing the narrative. The room was cluttered, full of paraphernalia, adding to the chaos and panic of the Donatti family. The stylised rhythmic group movements by the director collapses all character-distinctions but adds so much dynamism to the production. The comedic timing is exceptional - all credit to the performers (in particular Andrew Slater who plays Schicchi) and of course the music.
Lastly, there is an inversion, dare I say even subversion which I love, of Dante’s original story. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Schicchi is a conniving reprobate, condemned to hell for his actions; whereas in Puccini, he becomes an antihero, a scorned outsider of Florence, looked down upon by old money and then plays the players at their own game.
Thoroughly enjoyed it!