Three Operas, Reunited: Puccini's 'Il Trittico'
The Stories of 'Il Trittico'
The opera takes place on a barge, anchored in the river Seine, in Paris. Michele, who owns the barge, also lives on it, with his wife Giorgetta. But their marriage has seen better days, and Giorgetta has been having an affair with a handsome young stevedore named Luigi.
Michele has begun to suspect the affair, and when he watches the two together, he's convinced. Once they’re left alone, the two arrange a meeting later for that night.
Michele makes one last attempt to reignite Giorgetta's feelings for him, recalling their past, and how, when they were cold, they used to huddle together under his cloak. But Giorgetta doesn't respond.
Long after dark, Michele remains on deck, brooding. He lights a pipe. On shore, Luigi sees the flame and mistakes it for Giorgetta's secret signal that it's safe for him to come aboard.
This time, when he steps onto the ship, he finds Michele, instead. Michele forces Luigi to admit his relationship with Giorgetta. Then, Michele strangles him to death, and holds the corpse close to him, hidden inside his cloak. Giorgetta comes up from below, and it seems like she wants to make up with Michele. He offers to hold her close, in the cloak. But when Giorgetta approaches, Michele triumphantly opens the cloak and her lover's body falls at Giorgetta's feet as the opera ends.
The setting is the garden of a convent. Nuns can be heard singing "Ave Maria," with Angelica's voice standing out from the rest. As their service ends the Monitress, a sister responsible for discipline, assigns punishment to two nuns who have arrived late, and others who caused laughter during the time of worship.
The subject of longing is raised. The Monitress says that for nuns, all longing is forbidden. But some of the sisters admit to wishing for simple things -- a chance to pet a lamb, or to indulge in a tasty meal. Sister Angelica says she desires nothing, but the others know that's not true. They say Angelica longs for news of her wealthy family, who forced her to enter the convent -- though no one seems to know why.
Before long, the Abbess arrives, and announces that Angelica has a visitor. It's her aunt, the Princess. She's dressed in black, and as the two women talk it becomes clear that Angelica entered the convent after giving birth to an illegitimate child. Then, just before she leaves, the Princess coldly informs Angelica that the child has died.
After her aunt is gone, Angelica begins to weep, and prays to join her child in heaven. Finally, in despair, she decides to drink poison. At first, she seems joyful that her unhappy life is near its end. But soon she realizes that by committing suicide, she'll be condemned, and will never rejoin her child.
In desperation, Angelica prays for forgiveness, and salvation. The skies open. Then a vision of the Madonna appears, along with Angelica's child, who leads her into heaven.
The final opera of Il Trittico takes place at the home of Buoso Donati, a rich old gent who has just died. Before long, family members are on the scene, including young Rinuccio, the old woman Zita, Donati's nephew Gherardo and his wife, and a few others. They're sad that the old man is dead, but not too sad -- they're all hoping for a healthy inheritance. But they've also heard a rumour that he's left all his money to the local monastery.
Everyone scurries around looking for Donati's will. Rinuccio finds it. But he won't give it up until the family members consent to his marriage to Lauretta, his lower class sweetheart. They agree, and then read the will. The rumors, it turns out, were true. The monastery's monks will be adding to their treasury, thanks to Donati's generosity.
Then Rinuccio has an idea. He says there's only one person who can get them out of this jam: Lauretta's father, the shrewd Gianni Schicchi.
Schicchi is summoned. But when he shows up with Lauretta, he refuses to help. This sets up one of opera's best loved arias -- "O Mio Babbino Caro" -- "Oh, my dear Father." Lauretta begs Schicchi to help out Rinuccio's family, so that she and Rinuccio can marry.
Schicchi is persuaded. He points out that the authorities don't yet know about Donati's death. So why not devise a new will before they find out? Schicchi will hide behind a screen, posing as a gravely ill Donati, and dictate their wishes to a notary. Everyone agrees to the plan, and members of the family begin to bribe Schicchi, all angling for a larger piece of the estate.
The notary arrives, and Schicchi reads the "new will" aloud. Listing the various holdings of the estate, one by one, and announcing that Donati has left all of it to … Gianni Schicchi! And there's nothing anyone can do about it. The will is made official, and Schicchi kicks everyone out of his newly inherited home, except for the young lovers Lauretta and Rinuccio.
As the opera ends, Schicchi announces to the audience that he, for one, is quite satisfied with how Donati's money has been divided.