Two fine operas done justice in two outstanding productions, both from Glyndebourne. As an opera I prefer Gianni Schicchi, mainly because I am more familiar with it and there are more memorable tunes. But The Miserly Knight has wonderful, almost haunting music and a brooding story. So both operas in a nutshell are well worth checking out.
Starting with Gianni Schicchi by Puccini, the production is just wonderful, of the individual Gianni Schicchi performances(those that are not performed as part of Il Trittico) it is this one from Glyndebourne. The sets and costumes are traditional and look beautiful and the choreographed action is uproariously funny. The musical values are equally brilliant, with sprightly yet sensitive orchestral playing and commanding and relaxed leadership from Vladmir Jurowski. Alessandro Corbelli is a sly and hilarious yet subtle Schicchi, his voice is lovely and characterful and as ever his comic timing is impeccable. Sally Matthew is charming and humorous as Lauretta, her O Mio Babbino Caro is spine-tinglingly beautiful, and Massimo Giordano sings Rinuccio with the right force and ring. There is not a better Zita than Felicity Palmer, likewise with the La Ciesca of Marie McLaughlin, and while Luigi Roni's voice has been in better shape, with a somewhat dry vocal production, before he is fine as Simone and blends well in ensembles.
Which brings me to The Miserly Knight by Rachmaninov. The opera is incredibly difficult to stage, and I think Anabel Arden(also director of Gianni Schicchi) does a superb job with it. There is an additional character in the production played by Matilda Leyser, but instead of detracting from the opera like other additional characters have done this additional character adds to the brooding atmosphere with her haunting and shadowy movements. The production values are claustrophobic yet atmospheric, the cellar setting is particularly effective, While the musical aspects have no problems whatsoever, the orchestra bring so many textures to their playing while Jurowski leads an exciting reading of this psychologically astute- especially in the vocal lines- and densely-textured score. Sergei Leiferkus gives a towering performance, perhaps the best I've seen him. His 25 minute monologue is just phenomenal vocally and dramatically. Albert Schagidullin is a Duke that is both shrewd and noble, complete with a huge voice. Richard Berkeley-Steele is not quite on the same level but his Albert is still convincing.
All in all, both productions are outstanding with musical values and cast that are note perfect, and in both the stage direction does wonderfully in bringing out the comedic nature of Gianni Schicchi and the haunting broodiness of The Miserly Knight. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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