Opera Scotland

Tabarro The cloak

First part of Il Trittico

Music
Giacomo Puccini (born Lucca, 22 December 1858; died Brussels, 29 November 1924).

Text
Giuseppe Adami.

Source
French play La houppelande (1910) by Didier Gold.

Premieres
First performance: New York (Metropolitan Opera), 14 December 1918.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 18 June 1920.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 6 November 1944.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Background
Il tabarro is becoming more popular than it was originally, and is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of Grand Guignol as was fashionable at the beginning of the twentieth century. Puccini’s creation of atmosphere is brilliant, with the lapping water clearly depicted, a passing organ grinder, and a brief duet for a pair of offstage lovers, bugle calls from the local barracks, as well as the realistic depiction of riverside life.

Main Characters
Michele, a barge owner aged 50 (baritone)
Giorgetta, his wife aged 25 (soprano)
Luigi, a stevedore aged 20 (tenor)
Tinca, a stevedore aged 35 (tenor)
Talpa, a stevedore aged 55 (baritone)
Frugola, Talpa’s wife aged 50 (mezzo-soprano)

Plot Summary
Michele’s barge is connected to the shore by a gangway. The stevedores have spent the day loading the barge, and Giorgetta suggests offering them a drink. Michele’s own attempts at affection are rejected and he goes onshore, leaving her with the men. When the organ grinder plays, Tinca starts to dance with Giorgetta, but he is clumsy and Luigi soon takes over. The dancing stops when Michele returns. He tells her that when they leave for Rouen the next day the same three men will come with them. The dockers and Frugola pass the time drinking and talking of their dreams, Giorgetta also has her dreams of a life away from the river, and they don’t include Michele. She and Luigi are lovers, and they agree another assignation for later on, the signal to be as previously, a lighted match. Michele asks why Giorgetta has cooled towards him, suggesting it is since their child died. Giorgetta says they are just getting older. After she goes down to the cabin he reveals his jealousy. He is convinced she is waiting for someone. As he lights his pipe he notices a movement, and hides until Luigi arrives on board. After extracting a confession, he throttles the young man and covers his body with a boat clock. When Giorgetta comes up on deck Michele pulls the cloak aside to reveal Luigi’s corpse.

The Cast

Ballad Seller
 
First Lover
 
Frugola
 Talpa's wife, aged fifty
Giorgetta
 Michele's wife, aged twenty-five
Luigi
 a stevedore, aged twenty
Michele
 a barge owner, aged fifty
Second Lover
 
Talpa
 a stevedore, aged fifty-five
Tinca
 a stevedore, aged thirty-five

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