Puccini: Gianni Schicchi

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Gianni Schicchi
PERFORMER: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elke Schary, Martha Mödl, Claes-Håkan Ahnsjö; Bavarian State Opera Chorus, Bavarian State Orchestra/Wolfgang Sawallisch
Gianni Schicchi is the most successful of Puccini’s three one-act Trittico operas, so it is good to have it on its own and not as part three of the entire triptych. Though it comes as welcome relief when heard after the violent melodrama of Il tabarro and the saccharine mood of Suor Angelica, it is an amusing opera in its own right. Its score is really somewhat too thin for it to be classed as one of the great comic operas, but it is a highly enjoyable piece as long as one is not put off by the oddly bitter and extremely morbid basis of its humour.


Made at a live performance in Munich by the Bavarian State Opera in December 1973, this is an interesting, if not very Italianate, account of the work. Elke Schary as Lauretta fails to make much of ‘O mio babbino caro’, her one opportunity to shine, but most of the other roles are more than adequately handled. Claes-Håkan Ahnsjö brings great intensity to Rinuccio, and Martha Mödl’s powerful presence makes her a captivating Zita. Among the performers of smaller roles, those who stand out are Kieth Engen as Simone, David Thaw as Gherardo, and Antonia Fahberg as his wife, Nella.


But what of Fischer-Dieskau as Schicchi? His vocal acting is immaculate, his Italian fine, but he is essentially non-Italianate, especially if one compares him with that inimitable Schicchi, Tito Gobbi, who is even better in the Sony recording of the complete Trittico than in the EMI version of 20 years earlier. Charles Osborne