Franco Vasallo, Angelo Villari, Antonio Gares, Eugenio di Lieto, María José Siri, Anna Maria Chiuri et al (voices), Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; dir. Denis Krief (Florence, 2019)
Dynamic DVD: 37872 Blu-ray: 57872 54:00 mins
Naturalism is the watchword in this largely concept-free production of Il tabarro by Denis Krief for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. A wooden barge juts out towards us; a sepia photograph of a Parisian canal forms the backdrop; costumes and hair are vaguely 1940s. This functional staging is doubtless similar to countless other Tabarros but its lack of glitz and gimmicks forces our attention onto some excellent musical and dramatic performances.
Maria José Siri is surely one of the best actresses in the opera business and with every flicker of the eye, every facial expression we feel that we’re watching a real woman rather than a singer playing a role. Her voice, richly burnished, fits perfectly with that of tenor Angelo Villari, from whose every note drips plangent emotion. These are middle-aged lovers: physically imperfect, arguably, yet connected by an electric mutual attraction – exactly what Puccini’s brand of messy operatic realism demands. Franco Vassallo gives us a luxuriantly voiced, blank-eyed Michele, a weary man of limited emotional range for whom this sudden dramatic twist in life has come as an unwelcome surprise. The minor roles are characterised with similar attention to detail and the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino under Valerio Galli gives a refined performance of Puccini’s highly descriptive score.
Given the current privations and challenges facing the operatic world, it may be that we will see more such ‘back-to-basics’ productions in future. But this one shows that a simply staged performance need not pack any less of an emotional punch.