IL TRITTICO — Patricia Racette Debuts In Puccini’s Trio of One-Act Operas

San Francisco Opera celebrates Patricia Racette’s 20th Anniversary with the Company

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

David Gockley and San Francisco Opera made a spectacular choice in giving us Giacomo Puccini’s series of three one-act operas, Il Trittico, for its 2009/10 Season. In the spirit of Nicola Luisotti’s recent appointment as Music Director and with the intention that this year would recognize and celebrate the rich traditions of the Company’s Italian heritage – composer Giacomo Puccini would be pleased to see the entirety of his Il Trittico listed on one bill. Seldom seen together in a single evening, it is not unusual to find any one of “The Triptych” – Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi – paired with other one-act operas and by a different composer. Even more rare in the opera’s performance history – the opportunity for one soprano to portray all three leading ladies. Only twice in its history has the Metropolitan offered that challenge. Across the plaza at New York City Opera, Beverly Sills was the last to interpret the roles – a slutty wife having an affair with a hunky stevedore, then a nun with an illegitimate child who commits suicide, and finally the impetuous ingenue who sings opera’s most popular aria, “O mio babbino caro”. Thus, a lot of “Theatre” is going on with this current production of Il Trittico at the War Memorial Opera House. Soprano Patricia Racette is in the center spotlight as Giorgetta, Sister Angelica, and Lauretta. She is the definitive Puccini Heroine. General Director David Gockley chose Il Triticco to showcase her and to celebrate her 20th anniversary season with the Company. Patricia Racette is a consumate actress. Her dramatic soprano voice is in full-flower. The opening night performance of Il Trittico proves Ms Racette’s incredible musicianship and versatility and places her in the firmament of Puccini’s ultimate interpreters.

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Brandon Jovanovich (Luigi) and Patricia Racette (Giorgetta). Photo, Cory Weaver

Patricia Racette will reprise each role this fall at the Metropolitan Opera. Last seen as “Cio-Cio San” in San Francisco Opera’s widely acclaimed performances of Madama Butterfly, she has performed more than 25 roles with the Company, including the title roles of Luisa Miller and Jenůfa, “Liù” in Turandot, “Mimi” in La Bohème and “Violetta” in La Traviata. Racette will return to San Francisco this summer to appear as “Marguerite” in Charles Gounod’s Faust. The acclaimed Italian baritone Paolo Gavanelli and tenor Brandon Jovanovich return to San Francisco Opera, and celebrated contralto Ewa Podleś makes her long-awaited Company debut as “The Princess” in Suor Angelica. Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers leads these performances, and James Robinson directs this inventively updated production from New York City Opera.

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Brandon Jovanovich and Patricia Racette. Photos, Cory Weaver

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Paolo Gavanelli (Michele). Photo, Cory Weaver

A classic verismo opera which tells a story of jealousy, forbidden love and a fateful mistake that costs a man his life, Il Tabarro (The Cloak) features Patricia Racette as “Giorgetta”, an unhappy wife who longs to run away with one of her husband’s employees. “Luigi”, Giorgetta’s lover is performed by American tenor Brandon Jovanovich, last seen at San Francisco Opera opposite Racette in 2007’s Madama Butterfly. In a role he recently performed to critical acclaim at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Paolo Gavanelli sings Giorgetta’s much older husband “Michele”, a barge owner overcome with rage when he discovers his wife’s infidelity. Andrea Silvestrelli, who recently appeared at San Francisco Opera in Verdi’s Requiem, is “Il Talpa”, one of Michele’s stevedores, and Catherine Cook, a former Adler Fellow who has sung more than 30 roles with the Company, sings his wife “La Frugola”.

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IL TABARRO. Photo, Cory Weaver

The dramatic second opera of Puccini’s triptych is Suor Angelica, the heart-wrenching story of a repentant nun destroyed by news from her past about a long kept secret. Although her pain causes her to take her own life thus ensuring her eternal damnation, Sister Angelica’s last living moments are transformed by a miraculous vision. Patricia Racette is “Sister Angelica” and renowned Polish contralto Ewa Podleś makes her highly anticipated Company debut is as Sister Angelica’s aunt, “the Princess”. Merola Opera Program alumna Meredith Arwady also makes her San Francisco Opera debut as “the Abbess”. Appearing as fellow sisters at the convent are Catherine Cook as “Sister Monitor” and Rebekah Camm as “Sister Genovieffa”.

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Patricia Racette. Photo, Cory Weaver

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Ewa Podleś (The Princess). Photo, Cory Weaver

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Patricia Racette (Sister Angelica). Photo, Cory Weaver

A tale of greed, bribery and prevailing love, Gianni Schicchi is a rousing comedy that portrays the selfish family of a recently deceased man as they read his disappointing will, concoct a clever scheme to turn the tables in their favor, and then lament when their plan backfires. Clever con-man “Gianni Schicchi” is performed by Paolo Gavanelli. Schicchi’s daughter and hopeful bride “Lauretta” is sung by Patricia Racette and her eager lover “Rinuccio” is sung by Adler Fellow David Lomelí, who made his San Francisco Opera debut last season as “Alfredo Germont” in La Traviata. Among those appearing as the deceased Buoso Donati’s family members are former Adler Fellow Thomas Glenn as Buoso’s nephew “Gherardo” and bass Andrea Silvestrelli as Buoso’s cousin “Simone”.

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Paolo Gavanelli (as Gianni Schicchi)
and Michael Harvey (the deceased Buoso Donati). Photo, Cory Weaver

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David Lomelí (Rinuccio) and Patricia Racette (Lauretta). Photo, Cory Weaver

In his first performances since being named San Francisco Opera’s principal guest conductor, Patrick Summers returns to conduct the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in this production. Summers, who is also music director of Houston Grand Opera, has led a vast repertory for the Company, including Ariodante; Samson and Delilah; Iphigénie en Tauride; the world premieres of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking; and the West Coast premiere of Heggie’s Three Decembers. In 2012, Summers will conduct the West Coast premiere of Heggie’s Moby-Dick, a San Francisco Opera co-commission.

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Meredith Arwady (Zita), Catherine Cook (La Ciesca), Paolo Gavanelli (Gianni Schicchi),
and Rebekah Camm (Nella). Photo, Cory Weaver

This New York City Opera production with sets by Allen Moyer and costumes by Bruno Schwengl is directed by James Robinson, who most recently directed The Elixir of Love at San Francisco Opera in 2008. Robinson’s production, which is a timeless update of the opera’s original setting was deemed “strong and imaginative” by the New York Times at its 2002 debut. The San Francisco Opera Chorus is directed by Ian Robertson.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the remaining performances of Il Trittico are scheduled September 24th (7:30 p.m.), September 27th (2 p.m.), September 30th (7:30 p.m.), and October 3rd (8 p.m.) 2009. Purchase your tickets on-line: Il Trittico

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GIANNI SCHICCHI. Photo, Cory Weaver

Download Carmen Milagro’s BlogTalkRadio and her recent interview with Seán Martinfield. It’s all about singing and the 2009/10 San Francisco Opera Season:
Women and Legends Who Really Rock, 9/11/2009

Visit Seán on YouTube:
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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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