Il trittico (The Triptych) synopsis
Music by Puccini
The Cloak, Libretto by Giuseppe Adami
Paris, an autumn evening in the early 1920s. A quay, with a barge moored alongside.
The bargeman Michele sits silent looking at the sunset while his wife Giorgetta undertakes various domestic tasks. The exhausted stevedores unload sacks on to the quay. Giorgetta offers them some refreshment, which Luigi, Tinca and Talpa gladly accept. Luigi calls to a passing organ-grinder. First Tinca, then Luigi waltz with Giorgetta until the reappearance of Michele interrupts their dancing. A ballad-seller appears on the quay and entertains a group of seamstresses with ‘The Story of Mimì’. La Frugola arrives in search of her husband, Talpa. The men return, having finished their work. Tinca sets off for a café where he can drown his sorrows, caused by an unfaithful wife; Talpa and his wife depart, dreaming of an idyllic retirement in the country.
Luigi and Giorgetta are left alone and it is immediately apparent that they are clandestine lovers. Michele climbs out of the hold, taken aback that Luigi has not yet gone. Luigi tells his skipper that he wishes to leave the barge when they reach Rouen, but Michele persuades him to stay. Michele goes off to put up the lights for the night, and Giorgetta learns the reason behind Luigi’s decision: he can no longer bear the thought of sharing her with someone else. They arrange to meet later that night. Giorgetta will give him the usual signal: the lighting of a match. When Luigi has gone Michele reappears and reminds Giorgetta of the joy of their early love, their child (now dead), and how he used to cradle them both beneath his cloak. Giorgetta, feigning tiredness, retires to her cabin and Michele broods on his misery, suspecting everyone and no one of being his wife’s lover. His mind turns to his three stevedores, but he concludes that none is likely to be the culprit, least of all Luigi – had he not asked for permission to leave at Rouen? Michele lights his pipe, and seeing the flame, which he takes to be the prearranged signal, Luigi rushes on board. Michele seizes him, forces him to confess that he is Giorgetta’s lover, then strangles him, concealing the body under his cloak. Giorgetta, alarmed by the noises she has heard, comes back on deck to repent her earlier coolness towards Michele and begs to be enfolded once more in his cloak, the symbol of his protection and authority. He opens the garment to reveal her lover’s body.
Sister Angelica, Libretto by Giovancchino Forzano
A spring evening in 1900. The garden of a convent.
Sister Angelica, the daughter of a noble family, brought disgrace and shame on their name by an illicit passion which resulted in an illegitimate child. As atonement for her sin, she took the veil; however, she cannot forget her son.
From the convent chapel can be heard the Ave Maria. As the nuns emerge from worship, the Monitress assigns fitting punishment to a pair of lay-sisters who were late for divine office, as well as to Sisters Lucilla and Osmina. The nuns disperse to their recreation. Sister Genevieve remarks that the fountain is about to be turned gold by the rays of the setting sun, as it does for three days every May, a sign of special favour from the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is a moment of sadness as they recall a member of their order who died a year ago. Sister Genevieve suggests that this dead Sister might desire a libation from the fountain, but Sister Angelica declares that desires can only bloom for the living; those of the dead are fulfilled before they can be uttered. The Monitress reminds them that all desires are forbidden to nuns, but Sister Genevieve disagrees: for example, she longs to hold a pet lamb, and Sister Dolcina declares she too has a wish to which the nuns laughingly reply that it must be for something delicious to eat. Sister Angelica denies wishing for anything, but the nuns are shocked by her lie for they know that she longs for news of her family.
The Nursing Sister rushes in: one of the nuns has been stung by a swarm of wasps and is in great pain. Sister Angelica quickly prepares a herbal remedy. Two Alms Sisters distribute provisions, during which they mention that a magnificent carriage has arrived at the convent. The Abbess summons Sister Angelica to meet an important visitor, her first since she entered the convent seven years before.
The Princess, Sister Angelica’s formidable aunt, has come to demand that Angelica formally relinquish her share of the patrimony in favour of a younger sister, who is about to be married. During the course of their encounter, the Princess bluntly informs Angelica that her son died two years ago. The Princess departs, leaving Sister Angelica in mortal despair. Singing of divine grace, the nuns go to their cells. Angelica follows, but returns to mix a lethal draught distilled from garden plants. She swallows the poison but is immediately overcome by the torment of having taken her own life. She prays to the Virgin Mary for salvation and her prayer is answered: the Virgin appears with Sister Angelica’s child.
Gianni Schicchi, Libretto by Giovacchino Forzano
Florence, 1299. The bedroom of Buoso Donati, who has died a few hours ago.
Buoso Donati’s relatives have gathered round his bedside to lament his passing, but they are soon far more troubled by the rumour that he has left his entire fortune to the monks of S. Reparata. The family, headed by Simone and Zita, ransack every nook and cranny of the house in a desparate search for Donati’s will. Zita’s nephew, Rinuccio, finally discovers the precious document, but before handing it over extracts a promise that he will have his aunt’s permission to marry Lauretta, daughter of Gianni Schicchi. As far as Zita is concerned, if they all receive their just inheritance, then Rinuccio can marry whoever he wishes – even Schicchi’s daughter. The will confirms their worst fears: Donati’s fortune is now the monks’. If only the will could be altered . . .
Rinuccio suggests seeking Schicchi’s advice on this matter, whose reputation for shrewdness makes him the only person who might be able to find a way out of their predicament. But the family refuse to have anything to do with such a known trickster. Rinuccio persuades them of the unreasonableness of their prejudiced attitude. Schicchi arrives (he had been secretly summoned) with his daughter. He and Zita quarrel and the young lovers see all hopes of marriage fading. First Rinuccio, then Lauretta beg Schicchi to help the family and he finally relents.
Schicchi takes charge of the situation: Donati’s body must be hidden and the bed remade; he will impersonate Donati and dictate a new will to the notary, bequeathing the estate to the family. They discuss the division of property and each attempts, surreptitiously, to bribe him into leaving the most valuable items of the legacy – the house, the mule and the windmill at Signa – to him or her. Having dressed in the dead man’s clothes, Schicchi climbs into bed. The notary arrives and, impersonating Donati, Schicchi dictates a new will in which the most valuable items are left to himself. The family are outraged, but are hardly in a position to protest as they are implicated in this fraud and would be severely punished if the truth were to come to light. Once the notary and witnesses leave, the family loot whatever they can before being chased from the house by its new owner, Gianni Schicchi. The lovers are content, for now that Lauretta is assured of a dowry there can be no obstacle to their marriage.
Back to full list
Already a member?
Sign in now to access the members only area
Not a member?
Join now to receive priority booking, invitations to dress rehearsals and members-only events and much more.