Bruno de Simone, Francesca Longari, Anna Maria Chiuri, Dave Monaco, Constanza Fontana, et al; Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; dir. Denis Krief (Florence, 2019)
Dynamic 37874 & 57874 54 mins (DVD & Blu-ray)
The action of Gianni Schicchi takes place at an unusually precise historical moment (1 September 1299, as the notary who arrives to change Buoso Donati’s will informs us). But when did you last see a Renaissance-styled production? The opera is now almost always updated to the mid-to-late 20th century and has been reinvented as a work that evokes nostalgia for audiences’ own younger years. Somewhere along the line a director decided that this opera lent itself to a certain kitsch and almost all the others followed suit. Denis Krief’s production, set in a sparsely-furnished modernist apartment overlooking the Arno, is no exception. The costumes evoke a generalised ‘retro’ look, perhaps from the 1970s or ’80s, though strict fidelity to any one decade is avoided.
Bruno de Simone is an amiable, bespectacled Schicchi who could win anyone around with his mellow voice and floral shirt. He sparks off nicely against Anna Maria Chiuri, an unusually young ‘vecchia’ Zita, who brings a welcome vocal freshness to the role. Dave Monaco as Rinuccio is a bright-hued tenor, Francesca Longari a fruitier-voiced Lauretta, and their love music at the end rounds everything off with the requisite radiant glow. The young ensemble cast members act and sing their socks off but the hammy stage business, excruciating stock opera dance moves and a very silly notary give the impression of a director trying too hard. Ultimately a bid for cheap laughs only serves to sap the opera of some of its inherent humour.