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Puccini’s Rarely Performed Il Trittico Returns to the Bay Area

February 7, 2017

Even after eight years, San Francisco Opera’s 2009 production of Puccini’s Il Trittico (The Triptych) remains a fond memory Brilliantly cast, it was a remarkable event. Fans of this strangely underperformed trio of operas — produced only three times in SFO’s 94-year-long history — can take heart now because West Bay Opera is about to offer it.

WBO General Director José Luis Moscovich will conduct Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi in Palo Alto’s Lucie Stern Theater, Feb 17, 19, 25, and 26. Moscovich says, “These three works deserve to be seen together, as Puccini intended it. The score is so detailed, the characterizations so masterful. A major workout even for very experienced singers and musicians. We’re having a lot of fun with it.”

He admits that it’s a challenge to cast so many demanding roles, but says he managed to engage “an array of truly gifted artists singing the lead roles in all three operas, but also we have been able to give comprimario opportunities to talented singers that have often been with us in the chorus or have appeared in outreach concerts or other events but have not had a chance to show their abilities on our main stage.”

West Bay made a casting coup signing San Francisco Opera Adler fellow Toni Marie Palmertree to sing the title role in Suor Angelica and Giorgetta in Il tabarro. “She has a radiant instrument that will captivate people, and she’s looking at a major international career,” says Moscovich. “She already had a chance to step in to replace Lianna Haroutounian as Cio Cio San in SFO’s recent production of Madama Butterfly, and SFO just announced her casting as Liu in the Turandot that opens the next season. Now she undertakes two roles with West Bay Opera that can easily become signature roles for her.”

Another Adler fellow, Matthew Stump, is playing the role of Simone, the politician, in Gianni Schicchi. The casts include baritones Krassen Karagiozov and Kiril Havezov, bass Matthew Lovell, Mexican tenor Alonso Sicairos (“a huge voice and tremendous potential,” says Moscovich), and mezzos Patrice Houston and Veronica Jensen. Members of the Ragazzi Children’s Chorus appear in the finale of Suor Angelica.

The stage director is Michael Mori, artistic director of Tapestry Opera in Toronto. Sets are by Peter Crompton, costumes by Callie Floor. Projections are also used liberally “to help realize the concept, which blurs timelines and makes us think about human nature and people’s foibles,” in Moscovich’s words. “For example, the convent turns into a sanatorium towards the end of the piece, so we no longer know for sure whether the story is real or imagined and what the true circumstances were,” he added.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].