Suor Angelica/Gianni Schicchi
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Illustration by mktfolly Designs

November 13 - 15 at 8 PM
November 16 at 2 PM
Power Center

newsletter | press release | synopsis | program | photographs

From our Newsletter
Giacomo Puccini was born in 1858 in Lucca, a small town situated halfway between Pisa and Florence. The sixth child in his family, he belonged to the fifth generation of a remarkable family of composers and organists.

The family, however, suffered through years of poverty when Giacomo's father died when the composer was only six. Giacomo was trained to be an organist. When he was 22 years old, he went to Milan to study composition with Ponchielli. Ponchielli, the composer of the opera "La Gioconda," awakened Puccini's interest in the theatre and encouraged him to compose operas.

He wrote his first opera, "La Villi," when he was 26. It was one of only 12 operas that he wrote during his lifetime. Puccini's composition style was slow. He was fastidious in choosing subjects and extremely fussy with the text. Seldom satisfied, he paid close attention to small nuances so that the delivery of the words and the logical order of the sentences conformed with his wishes. He also involved himself in many matters relating to the production of his operas, from selecting singers and conductors to supervising rehearsals. He did all he could to be present at all the rehearsals and performances. His obsession with detail often frustrated his librettists, but the results of this fixation can be heard in his exquisite music.

Most of Puccini's operas are still performed regularly around the world. His greatest works include "La Boheme," "Tosca," "La fanciulla del West" and "Madama Butterfly." His two melodic one-act operas, "Suor Angelica" and "Gianni Schicchi," depict divergent paths to heaven and hell. "Suor Angelica" tells the heart-wrenching story of Sister Angelica. Sent to a convent as punishment for having an illegitimate child, the opera depicts her feelings of guilt and pain dealing with her child's life and death. "Gianni Schicchi," on the other hand, is a mischievous episode from "The Divine Comedy" about a group of greedy family members trying to impersonate a recently-departed relative and write their way into his will.
- Joel Aalberts

Press Release
ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan Opera Theatre presents an operatic double bill, featuring Giacomo Puccini's "Suor Angelica" and "Gianni Schicchi," November 13-15 at 8PM and November 16 at 2PM at the Power Center in Ann Arbor. Both operas will be sung in Italian with projected translations. Joshua Major, of the UM School of Music, directs. The performance features the University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Keisler.

The Power Center is located at the corner of Huron and Fletcher Streets on the UM Central Campus. Tickets are $20 and $15 reserved seating, with students only $8 with ID. All tickets are available at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted.

"Suor Angelica" (or Sister Angelica) and "Gianni Schicchi" (pronounced "Johnny Skeekee") are two of the three one-act operas featured in Puccini's "Il Trittico" (The Triptych). Writing a trio of short operas had always been an aspiration for Puccini, but his publisher, Ricordi, opposed to the idea. In 1916, near the end of his career, Puccini collaborated with librettist Giuseppe Adami to create "Il Trittico." Written as an operatic answer to Dante's "Divine Comedy," "Il Trittico" features the tales of three separate lives, each headed either toward heaven, hell or purgatory. Director Joshua Major chose to produce "Suor Angelica" (heaven) and "Gianni Schicchi" (hell), as "the operas have completely different sentiments. The contrast between the two pieces is brilliant."

"Suor Angelica," a tale of loss and repentance, will be performed as the first piece in the "Double Bill." After bearing an illegitimate child in late-17th century Italy, Angelica is sent to a convent by her family. Seven years later, Sister Angelica receives the news that her child has died. Devastated, she sings the lament, "Senza mamma" ("Without mamma"), mixes poison, and resolves to kill herself. After drinking the poison, Sister Angelica realizes that her suicide is a mortal sin, and therefore she will not go to heaven. As she dies, Sister Angelica prays for forgiveness, and in her last moments, has a vision of the Virgin Mary bringing her lost child to her.

"Gianni Schicchi," the finale to the UM production, is an emotionally lighter piece. "Gianni Schicchi" tells the story of a greedy family trying to gain control of the estate of their dying relative, Buoso Donati, in mid-13th century Florence. The family turns to Gianni Schicchi, a cunning con artist, to help secure the inheritance. But Schicchi has plans of his own: he turns the con around on the family, keeping Buoso's riches for himself. "Gianni Schicchi" was Puccini's only comic opera, and features the popular aria, "O mio babbino caro" ("Oh my dear daddy"), sung by Schicchi's daughter Lauretta.

To highlight the contrast between the two operas, director Joshua Major presents "Gianni Schicchi" as a physically comedic romp with the Donati family. The set includes trap doors and a 13th century version of a Murphy bed. Staying true to the sentiment of "Suor Angelica," Major sets this tragedy in the traditional, somber convent setting. Both operas will be set in the time periods for which they were originally written.

Mr. Major recently directed "Xerxes" and "The Consul" at UM. Major also directed the first act of composer Bright Sheng's new opera, "Madame Mao," at Ann ArborŐs Festival of New Works in 2002. The design team for the "Puccini Double Bill" includes Vincent Mountain, head of design and production in the UM Department of Theatre and Drama, who designed the set for last spring's "Xerxes." Costume designer Rachel Laritz is a UM alum (2002), now working as a costume assistant and designer at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Lighting designer Jeff Davis is a prominent New York-based professional who last designed "Good News!" at UM.
- Kerianne M. Tupac

Suor Angelica
Setting: A convent in the latter part of the 17th Century.
Years earlier, a young noblewoman had given birth to an illegitimate son. To avoid further embarrassment, her scandalized family forced her to enter a convent and take the veil. Now known as Sister Angelica, she tends to the health and well being of her sisters. She spends her days in prayer and atonement for her sin, waiting for word about her family and her adored child. The Abbess announces a visitor for Sister Angelica. It is her aunt, the Princess. The old woman has come to obtain Angelica's release from any claim on her dead parents' estate in favor of her younger sister. Angelica pleads for some word about her little boy and finally learns that he had died from fever a few years earlier. The news is more than Angelica can bear and in her distraction, she drinks a deadly poison. Suddenly realizing the full implication of what she has done, she begs the Virgin to forgive her mortal sin.

Gianni Schicchi
"...That goblin over there [in Hell] is Gianni Schicchi and he runs rabid, mangling the other dead... ...[he] ventured, in order to gain the best of the herd, to counterfeit himself as Buoso Donati, making a will and giving it due form." - - - The Inferno, Canto XXX, Lines 32-33 & 42-45, by Dante Alighieri

Setting: The home of Buoso Donati, Florence, Italy, 1299.
The story begins when the wealthy Buoso Donati dies. It is rumored that old Buoso has willed all his money to the Church in repentance for his sinful life. After a brief period of feigned grief, his relatives conduct a feverish search for the will. They soon discover that there is much truth to this loathsome rumor. So, in an effort to extract what they consider to be their lost legacy from the clutches of the clergy, the family must resort to some sort of deceit. But what is to be done? There is only one man in all of Florence who is clever and cunning enough to help the greedy relatives gain an inheritance: the ever-resourceful peasant Gianni Schicchi! They call on Schicchi and he hatches a plot. They explain that no one outside of the immediate family knows Buoso is dead, nor has any outsider, as yet, discovered the real contents of the will. Therefore the family must call the notary to take the last will and testament of the "dying" Buoso Donati and all will be right again. But not without a price!

Click here to view Suor Angelica/Gianni Schicchi program as a PDF file

Production Photographs
November 13 & 15, 2004

November 14 & 16, 2004