Treasures of ‘Il Trittico’ revealed in a beautiful production

Three separate and distinct operas make up Puccini’s “Il Trittico,” and in this past Friday’s performance of this seldom-seen piece The Opera Company of Middlebury showcased the power of harnessing separate and distinct talents to produce a gem at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater.
The heart of “Il Trittico” lies in the primal beauty of the music. Puccini’s ability to create music that instinctively pleases and conveys emotion to the human ear is ever present in this late life work. Director Douglas Anderson has brought a battalion of talent to town for this production. The confident and graceful musical direction of Michael Sakir and his full orchestra conveys all the variety of Puccini’s rich, cinematic score.
Sets designed by Anderson and scene artist Elinor Steele Friml are alternately edgy, hilarious and evocative. Special kudos must go to Neil Curtis’s beautiful lighting design that gives us suns, moons and finally, miracles. Debra Anderson’s costumes are equally, by turn, edgy, hilarious and finally, a great component in the emotional impact of the finale.
The opener is “Il Tabarro” set on a dingy barge on the Seine. It tells the story of a failing marriage and an ill-fated affair. Corey Crider’s baritone brings a masterly melancholy to his Michele. As his adversary, Luigi, Matthew Vickers, a muscular tenor, offers a brash suaveness. Soprano Eleni Calenos is marvelous as Giorgetta, and she soars in her duets with her two rivaling men.
Midway is the comic opera “Gianni Schicchi.” Puccini had placed this as the finale, perhaps hoping to “leave them laughing.” Wisely, Anderson split the two tragedies with the farce. To view such a frothy piece after the emotional “Suor Angelica” could possibly deprive the audience of the full enjoyment of this comic masterpiece, which is conceived with “Euro-Trash meets The Marx brothers” in mind.
In “Gianni Schicchi,” we find that everything at the Donati Towers is bright and shiny and garish as Donati’s greedy relatives wait for him to die so that they can inherit his riches. When they learn he’s leaving it all to some monks they agree that con man Gianni Schicchi is the one to fix things.
The “grieving” relatives are a hilarious ensemble of great singers with funny bones. Margaret Gawrysiak, Joshua Collins, Bevin Hill, Kian Freitas, Jeffrey Beruan, Corey Crider and Alissa Anderson show their comedy chops; and their timing and musical interplay give the opera sparkle.
In the title role, Joshua Jeremiah’s commanding baritone and sense of fun make his Gianni Schicchi a lovable rogue and a crook you gotta love. A highlight is Jenna Siladie as Lauretta, who sings the famous aria “O Mio Babbino Caro” with a coy smile and a ravishing voice. Matt Morgan pleases as her guileless, adorable boyfriend and in a bit of charming stagecraft, they seem to float off into the sunset together.
The finale is the sublime “Suor Angelica.” Puccini’s only all-female opera, it is, appropriately, set in a convent. The piece begins as the sisters are ending prayers. In their flowing habits, wimples and sweeping movements an ambiance of timeless grace emerges. The ritual is interrupted when Sister Angelica, played by an incandescent Suzanne Kantorski, is informed that her aunt, The Princess, has arrived.
Dressed like an Edith Wharton villainess, the princess, played with steely brilliance by Alissa Anderson, has come to deliver a blow to her niece. Banished to the convent seven years prior to giving birth to her illegitimate son, Sister Angelica is told that the child has died.
From this moment on, the opera’s success rests solely on the shoulders of Miss Kantorski as Sister Angelica, and she is spectacularly up to the job. She has an amazing, AMAZING voice, but what makes her magnificent is her nuanced portrayal of loss and grief. The shimmering moment when she is reunited with her son in death’s embrace sent an unforgettable surge of shared emotion throughout the audience. Beyond thrilling, it was transcendent. Bravo, Miss Kantorski!
And bravo to the entire Opera Company of Middlebury for giving us the gift of “Il Trittico!”

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