Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Giovacchino Gorzano
Grange Park Opera
Grange Park Opera, Surrey
Grange Park Opera celebrates Dante’s 700th birthday with their film version of Giacomo Puccini‘s one-act comic masterpiece, which premièred in New York in 1918 and was based on a famous medieval prank, recorded by Dante in the 30th Canto of his epic poem Inferno.
This broad, crude, boisterous farce, originally set in 13th century Florence, has been updated and is now set in London in the 21st century. The production was filmed over five days in November in a grand historic house in Chelsea.
“I have a desire to laugh and to make people laugh,” said Puccini. Gianni Schicchi is one of the best farces ever.
An extremely rich man lies dead. His mourning relatives, expecting a fortune, discover they are disinherited and that he has left all his money to the monks in a local monastery. There is only one thing for the family to do and that is to tear the will up and rewrite it. They engage Gianni Schicchi, a notorious conman, who takes the place of the dead body and he dictates a new will to a notary.
Gianni proceeds to award himself the largest part of the inheritance. The family is outraged but can do nothing about it. They are accomplices to the criminal offence; and in the Middle Ages, they would have had their hands chopped off and been condemned to exile and Hell.
Stephen Medcalf directs. Chris Hopkins accompanies the singers on the piano. William Dazeley is Gianni. Luis Gomes plays the juvenile lead and has all the romantic music which includes a love song to Florence.
The opera is a lot of fun. Tempo is fast and the score is buoyant. The squabbling, the blatant greed, the feigned grief for the dead man and the real grief over the loss of money, all make for excellent farce.
Grange Park Opera’s Gianni Schicchi can be viewed on YouTube free.
Reviewer: Robert Tanitch