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Opera review The docker, the nun and the trickster

DAVID NICHOLSON enjoys a rare outing for Puccini’s trilogy of one-act operas, staged amid protests over cuts to funding

Il Trittico
Welsh National Opera, Cardiff Bay


GIACOMO PUCCINI’S three single-act operas making up Il Trittico (“the tryptych”) have been brought together to theatres in Wales and England as a triple-bill, just as the Italian maestro planned.

Although these operas are seldom played together, WNO and Scottish Opera are to be congratulated for a fabulous co-production of Il Trittico. However, as the audience arrived they were greeted by trade union members protesting against the latest cuts from the Arts Councils of England and Wales which has led Welsh National Opera to announce cuts in pay and jobs in the orchestra and chorus.

We start with the dark and atmospheric Il Tabarro (“the cloak”) set on a barge moored on Paris’s river Seine. Roland Wood’s Michele and Alexia Voulgaridou’s Giorgetta are the brooding couple overseeing the unloading of their cargo. Taking the plaudits with his immaculate singing is tenor Leonardo Caimi who is having an affair with Giorgetta.

We take for granted Puccini’s sumptuous score but as so often with his work it is the little details that also thrill. Osian Wyn Bowen’s passing song seller has a small part but he sings of a Paris seamstress called Mimi and hums airs from La Boheme.

Of course the opera ends in tragedy but it is the reflection of the life of Paris dockers and bargees that make this so realistic.

Suor Angelica (“Sister Angelica”), on the other hand, shows Puccini’s love of the female voice in a opera set in a convent. All the voices in this opera are women and take us on a journey from their unnatural life in a convent but with real human vices. 

Alexia Voulgaridou as Sister Angelica is a vulnerable nun who has been placed in the convent by her aristocratic family for the sin of having a baby out of wedlock. Her anguish is palpable when she is visited by her aunt, the Princess, sung with chilling aloofness by Tichina Vaughn, who tells the distraught nun that her child has died.

The plot creaks at the end but Puccini’s music overcomes this glitch and makes for an emotional ending.

Gianni Schicchi is a better known work and Roland Wood is a masterful peasant schemer outwitting his betters in Florenteen society.

Buoso Donati lies dying to the indifference of his relatives who are there not to grieve but to find out what they gain from his will. The onstage action as the dying Donati coughs his last while his relatives drink, watch television and generally ignore him is visually very funny.

But of course the audience are waiting for Hague Lee to sing Lauretta’s famous aria, O Babino Caro, as she pleads with her father, Schicchi, to help her fiancee’s family get their hand on Donati’s estate.

Lee sings the aria beautifully and deservedly gets the audience’s plaudits.

Plays until October 5. Box office: 029 2063 5000,


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