We are thrilled to have director Crystal Manich at the helm of our Festival double bill of Il Tabarro/Suor Angelica. As part of her creative process, Crystal prepares notes for the cast before rehearsals begin. Here, Crystal graciously shares her production notes on these one-act Puccini tragedies, which will be presented together at The Grand on April 28 (7:30 pm) and May 6 (2 pm).
OVERVIEW: Although the Trittico was never intended to necessarily connect as a cohesive unit, there are several binding agents that make it possible to at least connect Il Tabarro to Suor Angelica. For one, I believe that both female protagonists, Giorgetta and Angelica, are the same age: 25. At 18 Giorgetta met Michele, and Angelica had a child. The women are both secluded in a contained space: the former on a barge, the latter in a convent. Both are imprisoned for different reasons, and both have a past regarding a child. This new production seeks to shed light on this parallel.
Il Tabarro – September 1918: The barge is an isolated place where Michele and Giorgetta have lived for seven years. Like the birdcage that exists on the barge, they are within strict confines even though the world outside of the barge, Paris, is vast and exciting. The stevedores who work the docks are never seen, but rather heard. It is the monotony of life that goes on outside of the barge walls.
Giorgetta is from Belville, between the 19th and 20th arrondissement of Paris. She longs for city life, as opposed to an itinerant one on the water. Michele, 25 years her senior, is a hard-working and simple man who has done nothing but try to provide for her. The one-year anniversary of their child’s death is upon the couple. The couple has not been intimate since the death of their son. Giorgetta fears that Michele suspects her infidelity. This is due to the fact that every night they have been in Paris (seven), Giorgetta has stayed out all night to look at Paris and it is in these moments that she and Luigi have had long conversations into the wee hours, and they have fallen in love. It is interesting to note that Michele and Giorgetta have been in Paris for a short time. It is clear that they will move on towards Rouen next week and that Luigi, Talpa, and Tinca are temporary hires. It is also true that Michele intends to take all of them to the next job in Rouen and beyond. Therefore, Giorgetta and Luigi have only known each other for about a week, and have only consummated their attraction the night before this one.
Luigi, while only 20 years old, is tired of the physical work he must to in order to survive. Luigi, like Giorgetta, is from Belville. He wishes to have an easier life in the city suburbs, with his love by his side. He and Giorgetta connect on this desire in their duet. They give themselves away to Frugola and Talpa in this moment. While alone, Giorgetta and Luigi acknowledge their feelings for one another and Luigi expresses that he is willing to kill anyone for Giorgetta.
The two lovers make an appearance as they frolic on the barge and then run away upon seeing Michele. He is reminded of his past happiness with Giorgetta. Michele lights his pipe and is unaware that the striking of a match is Giorgetta’s “all clear” to Luigi. The men have a scuffle…
Suor Angelica – Spring, nearly sunset, 1918: The action takes place in a convent in a remote Italian countryside. There are only three days a year when the sisters come out from choir and can see the sun shining brightly. This happens in the spring. Angelica has been in the convent for seven years. Her sisters are a variety of interesting characters, all of whom have “flaws” in their character given that they lead a strict life as nuns. There is a novice, who seems to be curious and terrified at the events that transpire between the sisters. A lot of this interaction is light and sweet; a bit of comedy. We come to learn that one of the sisters died one year ago, perhaps of old age.
Angelica is a procurer of herbs at the convent and knows various combinations for ailments. She speaks of death in a beautiful way, and one wonders if she longs for it.
One of the sisters who has returned from collecting goods comments that she saw a beautiful carriage in front of the convent. Angelica asks, in detail, what the carriage looks like. The Abbess dismisses the sisters and tells Angelica that someone is here to visit. Angelica is the Abbess’s least favorite of the sisters, likely because of Angelica’s past sin. The Abbess finally tells her that the Princess—her aunt—has arrived to see her.
The Princess coldly addresses her niece recalling her promise to them on their deathbed twenty years prior. She is here to claim Angelica’s portion of the family’s estate for Angelica’s younger sister who is to be married. It is clear that both parents died simultaneously, one imagines from tuberculosis or perhaps scarlet fever. Angelica would have been 5 at the time of their death. The Princess comes off as a bitter and hard woman, perhaps due to the responsibility put upon her by raising her brother’s two small children. Angelica finally explodes and asks the question she’s wanted to know for seven years: how is her son? The Princess’s silence speaks volumes.
We are transported from the outdoors to Angelica’s cell. She makes a decision that guarantees peace…