Puccini for laughs? Strange but true, as he abandons the angst, dramatic pathos of operas like Butterfly and Tosca for what is basically one hour of sheer unadulterated fun.
This comes in the shape of the one-act gem that is Gianni Chicchi, the latest Gardyne Theatre presentation by Opera Bohemia.
The story of relatives squabbling and scheming over the will of a relative has a ring of truth about it but there is a great danger that this tale of deception and double-dealing can descend into farce. However, the company trode a fine line between that and skilful comedic interpretation, with each of the ensemble adopting strong and individual characteristics. Some subtle direction contributed to the whole effect resulting in an hour of mirth and amusement, two words not normally associated with grand opera.
The essence of this opera is ensemble singing and this performance produced some of the best I’ve heard, punctuated by arias that proved Puccini could put on a serious face when needed. One of the most famous of all falls to Lauretta and her O Mio Babbino Caro certainly did not disappoint. The deceased’s nephew Rinuccio (Raoni Hubner) needs his inheritance to marry Lauretta, and so adopts an earnest, less-cynical trait, and while his voice is light and lyrical it didn’t betray any hesitation in a difficult tenor role.
It was left to Andrew McTaggart to provide the evening’s most authoritative performance in the title role of arch-schemer Schicchi, the final part of an operatic jigsaw that was a complete delight.