This past Friday, I had the opportunity to sit in on the final dress rehearsal for COT's production of Gianni Schicchi, half of the double bill with Poulenc's La Voix Humaine currently playing at the Harris Theater. While Puccini is known for his dramatic operas, I find this piece to be one of my favorite operatic comedies.
Of course many associate this piece with the show stopping aria, “O mio babbino caro,” and the title character has some show stopping music as well, but the true star of this opera is the ensemble that makes up the colorful cast of characters in the Donati family. These greedy relatives of the wealthy and almost deceased Buoso Donati, plot with the cunning and opportunistic Gianni Schicchi to change Buoso's will after they learn that he has left everything to the friars. But in the end, Gianni Schicchi, disguised as Buoso, leaves the best of Buoso's will to himself! Having sung the role of Ciesca before, I know how deceptively challenging the ensemble numbers are in this show and I was really impressed with how the cast moved and sang as a hysterically funny unit while still retaining individual personalities.
Artistic director, Andreas Mitisek, chose to set the opera in a very groovy late 1960s Florence complete with funky furniture and go go boots and Gianni Schicchi was costumed to look like Austin Powers. The backdrop mirrored the constant motion on stage and shifted between a few bright, iconic 1970s patterns. Did I mention the backdrop was bright because it was VERY bright. At times I almost needed a pair of vintage 60's shades! All in all, I really enjoyed the production. Michael Chioldi's portrayal of Schicchi was boisterous yet clever, Emily Birsan sang a gorgeous Lauretta and on multiple occasions, I was laughing out loud. And not only this but it's paired with Patricia Racette's La Voix Humaine? I mean, it's a no brainer. Go see it!