The Puccini Companion,
ed. W. Weaver and G. Puccini
G. Puccini, Il Trittico, I. Cotrubas, R. Scotto, M. Horne, T. Gobbi, P. Domingo, London Symphony Orchestra, L. Maazel
Il Tabarro | Suor Angelica | Gianni Schicchi
To kick off this summer's festival Maazel chose a composer with whom he has a particular affinity, Giacomo Puccini. Maazel's recording of the late trilogy Il Trittico, which headlines this year, remains a classic (re-released very cheaply, but not remastered). As Leonardo Pinzauti wrote in an essay ("Giacomo Puccini's Trittico and the Twentieth Century") in The Puccini Companion, edited by William Weaver, Il Trittico came at an important cusp in world and music history, coinciding with the end of World War I and the precipice of the final dissolution of tonality. Indeed atonal influences can be heard burrowing into Puccini's harmonic style, in the organ grinder's waltz of Il Tabarro (called "a prophecy of Wozzeck" by Fedele d'Amico), shimmering in vibrant colors in Suor Angelica, and underscoring the clever deception in Gianni Schicchi. Pinzauti explored the shift in Puccini's style further:
the sense of crisis that the three little operas represent in Puccini's later life and in the panorama of European music in the first part of this century [is part of a] transition from a confessional theater to a theater that suggested the logical absurdity of the encounter between word and music ... A more or less calculated 'exaggeration' became evident, tending to a sense of detachment, of alienation, between the work of art itself and the emotions of its creator (pp. 229-30).The musical performance was excellent, as we have come to expect from the operas presented by Maazel, not least because of his confident knowledge of the score, a sure presence at the podium coordinating singers on the stage with the musicians in the pit. The orchestra sounded polished and surprisingly full, given that the limited pit -- actually dug into the ground this year, part of an enlarged and sturdier festival tent -- required a somewhat reduced orchestration (the edition was by Bryan Higgins, with a smaller number of strings and not all of the wind and brass parts). The singers, as one would expect from a young artists program, were heavy on raw talent and variable as far as finished product but overall well cast both musically and dramatically. Standout performances came from the impassioned if slightly uneven Luigi of Noah Stewart, the brooding Michele of Nicholas Pallesen, the rich, vibrato-heavy mezzo of Margaret Gawyrisiak (both La Frugola in Il Tabarro and Zita in Gianni Schicchi. The most rounded, experienced singer on the stage was Corey Crider, whose comic timing, Italian diction, and vocal power were spot-on as Gianni Schicchi. Soprano Tharanga Goonetilleke was featured beautifully in a number of ensembles (as Nella in Schicchi and Suor Osmina in Angelica) but felt underutilized.
Anne Midgette, Young cast of Puccini's "Il Trittico" makes Castleton Festival worth the trip (Washington Post, July 5)
Tim Smith, Lorin Maazel's Castleton Festival opens with potent Puccini production (Baltimore Sun, July 6)
Il Trittico will be repeated, in whole or in part, on July 9, 10, 11, 18, 22, and 24. The other productions in this year's Castleton Festival include two Britten revivals from last year, The Turn of the Screw and The Beggar's Opera, as well as a new double-bill of Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat and Falla's Master Pedro’s Puppet Show.