The Musical Story of “Gianni Schicchi”

The Musical Story of “Gianni Schicchi”

Posted by Paul Dorgan in 40th Anniversary Season, Gianni Schicchi, History of the Opera, Music, Online Learning 05 Mar 2018

The orchestra for Giacomo Puccini’s only comedy is a standard one: Piccolo; 2 Flutes; 2 oboes; English Horn; 2 B-flat clarinets; Bass Clarinet in B-flat; 2 Bassoons; 4 Horns in F; 3 Trumpets in F; 3 Trombones; Bass Trombone; Timpani; Percussion (consisting of Triangle; Snare Drum; Bass Drum and Cymbals); Celesta; Harp; Strings; off-stage is a low Church Bell.

The cast: The corpse of the wealthy Buoso Donati; Gianni Schicchi; Lauretta, his daughter; Zita, Buoso’s cousin; Rinuccio, Zita’s nephew, in love with Lauretta; Gherardo, Buoso’s newphew; Nella, his wife; Gherardino, their 7-year-old son; Betto, from Signa, Buoso’s impoverished brother-in-law; Simone, Buoso’s cousin; Marco, his son; La Ciesca, Marco’s wife; Maestro Spinelloccio, Buoso’s doctor; Amantio di Nicolao, a Notary; Pinellino, a shoemaker; Guccio, a dyer – these last two are to witness the signing of the will. There is no chorus.

Strings and winds, fortissimo, swoosh up 3 octaves and then descend in accented chords, with trumpets and horns joining in: it’s certainly frenetic – in the 7th measure Puccini adds the direction tumultuoso – and, since we know the opera is a comedy, we might assume the frenzy is a joyful one; but listen out for its return. There are two “themes” you should latch on to, if you can. The first is a very fast “sighing” idea first heard from the violins, but is soon taken over by the oboes and flutes. Which, within a few bars, is joined by what can only be described as a “perky” idea from the high winds. This disappears as the music slows down. A “funereal” drum is heard, and will continue throughout the opening scene. The “sighing” figure, now slowed down to a dirge-like tempo, is given to a solo bassoon. Violas join in as the curtain rises on the bed-chamber of Buoso Donati, a wealthy citizen of Florence in 1299.

Zita, Ciesca, and Marco wordlessly keen; when words are added we learn Buoso’s name, and that he’s Simone’s cousin, and Rinuccio’s uncle. All the while the dirge theme is passed from solo bassoon to the violas and cellos; to a clarinet; again the bassoon. Betto’s lament for his brother-in-law is interrupted by Gherardino knocking over a chair, which allows the other relatives to shush him: obviously they don’t think much of their shabby in-law! Gherardo moans he’ll be weeping for days (and shushes his son, who is trying to tell him something); Nella says months (also shushing her son); Ciesca adds “years and years” (be aware of the first three notes of the “perky” theme from the flute and clarinet!); while Zita caps it with “all my life!” Gherardino tries to tell Zita whatever it is he has tried to tell his parents; she pushes him away, and tells Gherardo to take his son somewhere else; he takes him to another room.

The mourning continues, with that dirge now in the lower strings and bassoons and 3rd and 4th horns. More silent praying. During which Betto whispers something to Nella: “Really?” “That’s what they’re saying in Signa.” Rinuccio is curious, so Nella whispers to him; then Ciesca wants to know. The “perky” idea is now doled out among various wind instruments, as the rumor is whispered among the relatives, but Marco’s reaction to it seems to rob it of its initial energy, if we can believe the solo clarinet!

Solo flute and solo bassoon bring back the dirge as Zita insists they all need to know what the hell they’re saying in Signa. Rumors and gossip, reports Betto. Just yesterday at the baker’s (and listen how that dirge transforms itself into the kind of lyrical melody we expect from Puccini!) someone said that when Buoso pops off, the local monks will think it’s Christmas, and someone else added that his will left everything to the monastery. Even “perky” becomes very lyrical when the strings play it!

Silence!

The funereal drum reappears. Remaining on their knees, but no longer praying, the relatives turn to Simone: “You’re the oldest; and you’ve been the Mayor of Fucecchio.” Dirge comes back, as does a very subdued “perky”, this time from the oboe! If, he tells them, Buoso’s will has been given to the lawyers, we’re screwed. But if it’s still here in the house, there’s hope for us. Rinuccio fervently hopes they’ll find his uncle’s will, for he is relying on his inheritance to be able to marry his love, Lauretta.

Listen to the orchestra as a frantic search for the will begins! There’s that accelerated “dirge” theme, and the “perky” theme, and what sounds like harmonic chaos (Puccini obviously knew Richard Strauss’s Salome and Elektra!). Simone finds a document. Pause. No! The search resumes, this time with a solo flute adding energy. Now it’s Zita who thinks she found it, but no! The only relative not taking part in the search is Betto. According to the libretto he sees on the table “a silver salver with a silver knife and a pair of scissors on top.” He is about to lay hold of what he can when Simone’s discovery halts the search. When it resumes, Betto pockets the knife and scissors. Zita’s find prevents him from taking the salver, but in the ensuing, more frenzied, search, he manages to conceal that on his person.

It is Rinuccio who finds the will. The “dirge” theme which, during Betto’s telling of events at the Signa baker’s, had become more lyrical, now becomes the real Puccini melody, at least in the orchestra, as he asks his aunt to approve his marriage to Lauretta, the daughter of Gianni Schicchi, assuming all of Buoso’s relatives will be the beneficiaries of his will; if she agrees, they can be married on Calendimaggio (“first day of May”) – that word, and the music associated with it, will reappear. “Of course!” the relatives tell him, but he insists on a definite promise. Which is not forthcoming, since they’re all far more concerned with the details of the will; Zita tells him that if everything works out as they hope, he can marry the devil’s daughter if he wants! He gives the will to his aunt.

Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” by the Utah Symphony & Opera Company at the Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City in May 2010

Rinuccio’s excitement brings back the accelerated ‘dirge’ theme (which is only the very fast “sighing” theme which we first heard in the orchestral introduction.) He is sure his uncle will have left him a generous amount. A brief recall of “perky”! Gherardino has come back into the room; Rinuccio gives him a few coins and tells him to tell Gianni Schicchi that Buoso’s nephew Rinuccio needs him, and to bring with him his daughter, Lauretta. Off with Gherardino.

Meanwhile, Zita has taken the parchment, bound with a ribbon, to the table, where she is surrounded by the other relatives. She rips off the ribbon, and a second parchment is found: the will. Two 1st violins begin a descending chromatic scale, which slows down as two violas continue its descent; then 2 cellos; and finally one double bass which settles on a low E.

Apologies for a musically-technical paragraph, but it’s important, so bear with me!

The held-over clarinets, on top of the sustained low E in the bass, tell us we’re in E major, and certainly, Zita thinks so as she begins to read the first bequest: “To my cousins Zita and Simone!” Muted strings and a single flute aren’t so sure as they play fragments of the “dirge” theme in D minor, and Simone seems to agree, thanking his benefactor in a D minor phrase (while the double bass hangs on to its low E!) More fragments of the “dirge” as Simone, expecting a large inheritance, lights the wax candles. Strange pianissimo chords (influenced by Debussy, perhaps?) from 2 horns and a solo bassoon. The double bass and the bass clarinet cling to the E major tonality, as the relatives hope he’s left them the house; or the Mill in Signa; or the mule. More of those “strange” chords, while “perky” is heard from the oboe and then from the flute.

As Zita finally opens the will, winds and cellos solemnly proclaim a 4-note descending scale which finishes with three very definite “it’s the end” chords; which you will easily recognize in its many re-appearances! As the relatives silently read the will, listen to the strange chords from the violins and violas. The “perky” theme is quite prominent in the oboes and flutes. More of that “legal” theme. But then we hear, from plucked cellos and basses the “sighing” theme, without the “sighing”! Obviously disappointed by what he’s read, Simone extinguishes all the candles; the other relatives seat themselves in various chairs “like graven images,” stunned by what the will reveals.

Simone, suppressing his outrage (which we hear muttering in the 2nd violins and violas), notes that the rumor is true: we shall see, he says, the friars grow fat at Donati’s expense! All that lovely money he had saved, says Ciesca, ending up in the robes of the friars! Robbing all of us of our wealth, while the friars wallow in plenty, says Marco. Betto complains that he’ll have to limit his drinking at home in Signa while the friars knock back good wine! Zita, Ciesca, and Nella comment that the friars will eat so well that they’ll have to let out their robes: “We’ll burst with rage and they with all sorts of goodies.” Rinuccio, introducing a fanfare-like theme in the winds, laments that without his expected inheritance he won’t be able to marry.

Led by Gherardo (and a rising arpeggio figure from strings and winds, which then descends step-wise), the relatives imagine the friars enjoying all sorts of culinary delicacies, washed down by fine wines while laughing at the disinherited Donati clan. The music gets more and more frenzied, reaching a climax as the family, mimicking the now-wealthy friars, sing, to Rinuccio’s fanfare theme, “Laugh, brothers, at the Donati clan’s expense!” Their final laughter sounds hollow and the orchestra slows things down a bit to allow Zita (though there’s still that arpeggio figure with its step-wise descent) to sum up the situation: “who would ever have thought that when Buoso died we’d all be weeping real tears!” The tempo relaxes, but the rising arpeggio is still there in the 1st violins; so too is the fanfare, now subdued; slowly the music dies away.

Out of the silence Zita, Ciesca, and Nella, whispering, wonder if there might not be some way…to change it? (this from Simone and Betto)…to get around it? (from Zita and Marco)…to soften it? (from Gherardo). They turn to Simone, the oldest; Marco reminds him that he was once the mayor of Fucecchio. The orchestra remains silent during this conversation; a muted solo horn when Simone indicates silently that there is no remedy. Rinuccio, though, has other ideas: there is only one person who could advise us, and maybe save us. Who? Gianni Schicchi. A new “theme”, of course. Puccini, naturally, gets the rhythm of the name right; but he also writes the only four pitches that could capture the youthful enthusiasm of the young lover of Schicchi’s daughter! Aunt Zita wants to hear nothing more of Gianni Schicchi, nor of his daughter; short chords from the bassoons, joined by pizzicato 2nd violins and violas seem to tip-toe around her frustration.

Gherardino (remember him? – the young son of Gherardo and Nello?) now rushes in to announce “he” is on his way. Who? Of course, we get that brilliant four-note “Gianni Schicchi”! Zita asks who sent for him; Rinuccio admits he did. Various relatives grumble that this is not really a good time for him to be here; Zita is more direct and threatens to throw him out when he gets here. Poor Gherardino gets spanked because he should do only what his father tells him to do, and he is banished to another room.

Simone wonders that a member of the Donati family could think of marrying the daughter of a peasant. Zita is equally horrified that Rinuccio would marry someone from a “new family.” You’re wrong, says Rinuccio; strings and winds support him with the “Gianni” theme. Schicchi’s clever and astute; he knows every legal trick there is. He is a jokester, a mocker. His eyes light up his strange-looking face with its huge nose. Flutes; oboe; horn; and trumpets begin an idea which Rinuccio completes: remember it! So what if he’s from the country: that’s petty prejudice. Then, in the manner of a Tuscan folk-song, he launches into a celebration of Florence, which, in 1299, was as much a political entity as it was a city. It’s a tree, he sings, which flowers in the central square, but which draws its nourishment from the surrounding countryside. And thus the city grows. Winds and strings introduce the opening bars of a tune you’ll recognize. I’ve not figured out why it appears there, so just enjoy it! The Arno is such a lovely river that it draws streams to it in exactly the same way that the city has drawn artists and scientists who have enriched it and made it more splendid: Arnolfo with his magnificent tower; the painter Giotto; and, of course, Medici, the merchant. Enough with this petty spite he sings, while low winds and strings remind us of the start of that recognizable tune. Let us welcome the new arrivals and Gianni Schicchi. Certainly, the orchestra agrees with him, for it enthusiastically applauds him, and then quiets down.

[insert tenor aria here, about beautiful Florence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n4xs4CvAgU]

A knock on the door. A clarinet tells us who it is, while low winds and low strings hint at who might be with him. Rinuccio opens the door; Schicchi enters, but it is obvious, from the bassoon theme, that Rinuccio has eyes only for Lauretta! Looking at the sad faces in the room, Schicchi assumes that Buoso’s health has improved. While the lovers whisper to each other and the clarinet sings “their” tune, flute and then bassoon give us the “Gianni” theme.

Realizing Buoso’s dead, Schicchi, to the “sighing” theme from bassoons and violas, notes their fake tears: they’re better actors than the ones we see in the touring troupes (another reason to couple Pagliacci with Schicchi?). Immediately he commiserates with their loss. But what’s that “perky” theme doing in the flutes and clarinets? He’s sympathetic: in this world, you lose things (violas decide that the “sighing” figure needs to become more consoling, so it gently rocks between its 2 initial notes and a bit of “perky” from the flutes); but win other things. You lose Buoso, but you win his inheritance. Which goes, Zita explains, to the monks; yes, we’ve been disinherited, so don’t expect me to allow my nephew to marry a girl without a dowry. This to Rinuccio’s “fanfare” theme which acquires a new ending: that “legal” theme.

Rinuccio appeals to his aunt that he loves Lauretta, while Lauretta tells her father that she loves Rinuccio; Zita doesn’t care a damn for Rinuccio’s feelings, while Schicchi tells his daughter to have some pride. Then he excoriates Zita for being willing to sacrifice the happiness of his daughter and her nephew for the sake of an inheritance! His accusation that she is a skinflint launches a double duet (a format Puccini had used before at the end of Act 3 of La Bohème, where the two pairs of lovers argue and resolve their differences). Here one wishes Lauretta and Rinuccio had been given the space for their own love duet. Certainly what they say to each other does not reflect the energetic orchestra. Until the lovers join Schicchi and the full orchestra in a brief reprise of Rinuccio’s “May-day theme.” Glorious!

The relatives think the lovers are quarreling – don’t lovers always quarrel? – but shouldn’t we be talking about the will? Schicchi, disgusted with Zita, is about to leave with his daughter, but Rinuccio begs him to stay; he tells his aunt that, instead of shouting, it’d be better if she showed Schicchi the will, and begs his future father-in-law to find some way to save them. “To help that lot?” he asks, indicating the family: “Never!” Lauretta pleads with him in what is one of the most beloved Puccini aria: O mio babbino caro. “I like Rinuccio and I want to buy a ring; if I can’t have him I’ll go to the Ponte Vecchio and throw myself into the river Arno. I’m in such torment I could die! Daddy, have pity.” Who could resist the innocence and simplicity of these words and this music? Certainly not Lauretta’s father!

“Give me the will.” He paces back and forth, reading it; the pizzicato cellos and basses could reflect his pacing, while violas and bassoon recall the “perky” theme, which could describe the silent excitement of the relatives. Suddenly he stops. “Nothing to be done!” The lovers bid farewell to their May-day wedding. More pacing; more reading, but the verdict remains the same. Another farewell to the May-day wedding. “But!!!!” Four bars of orchestral slowing; the tension in the room is almost palpable. “Well?” whisper the relatives.

The “sighing” figure returns to accompany Schicchi’s order to Lauretta to wait on the terrace outside and feed the birds (chirps from the flute, harp, and two 1st violins) – alone!

No-one knows that Buoso has died? No one. The funeral drum returns and is joined by the timpani; harp; low strings. Good; no one must know yet. No one will know. The servants? Since he got worse, no one has been in the room. He tells Marco and Gherardo to take the body into the adjoining room; Simone, Betto, and Rinuccio are to take the candlesticks into another room; the women are to remake the bed. A knock at the door. All freeze. It’s Doctor Spineloccio. Tell him that Buoso is better, but resting, and Schicchi goes behind the bed-curtains; Betto closes the shutters, to darken the room.

The relatives hold the door ajar, and we hear Spineloccio (“in a nasal voice with a Bolognese accent) ask permission to come in. (Listen to the weird chords from the woodwinds!) He’s better, the relatives tell him. Really? How amazing is modern science; let’s have a look at him. (The weird chords are now in the strings.) He’s resting. Schicchi, imitating Buoso’s voice (which initially jolts the relatives), greets the doctor, says he has risen from the dead but needs to rest, and please come back this evening. His voice sounds healthier, notes the doctor; no patient of mine has ever died, and all credit must go to the medical school at Bologna!

The door shuts, Schicchi reappears. “Was my voice like his?” “The exact same!” Winds, brass, violas, and cellos burst into the joyful fanfare we heard early in Rinuccio’s aria. Victory, sings Schicchi: don’t you understand? They don’t. Idiots! he yells at them.

Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” by the Utah Symphony & Opera Company at the Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City in May 2010

Violin tremolos. Bassoons; violas; and cellos mirror Schicchi’s line as he tells them to run to the notary. Now it’s just violas and cellos who outline the melody, with rushing upward scales from the clarinet and then the flute. More instruments join the excitement. Whoever goes to the notary is to tell him, says Schicchi, to hurry to Buoso Donati’s house; he’s worsened and wants to dictate his will, so bring everything necessary. Hurry, or it’ll be too late! The notary arrives. The music calms down: cellos and basses, together with the timpani, recall the funeral drum’s rhythm – which makes its own “ta-ta-ta-dum” contribution to the sound-world; the bassoon sighs twice as slowly as we’ve yet heard. The notary enters a darkened room; in the bed, says Schicchi, he can just about make out the figure of Buoso. Between the night-cap and the handkerchief on his mouth is a nose which looks like Buoso’s, but actually is mine, because it will be me in the bed. With another voice, I will imitate Buoso making his will. People, he concludes, this crazy idea of mine will challenge eternity! (And here he speaks truth, for the “real” Gianni Schicchi is to be found in the “Inferno” section of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”!)

What a brilliant example of musical characterization is this aria! Breathlessly summoning the notary is typical operatic “hurry-up” music. But when it comes to the notary assuming that the vague shape he sees in the bed is actually Buoso, Gianni’s vocal line slows down and outlines what theory people call a dominant 7th chord (hear the opening word of “Happy Birthday”: that’s that); but Puccini’s pizzicato string chords seem to contradict the dominant 7th suggestion, but he insists he means it in the following five bars when a flute and a trumpet echo Schicchi: it’s all very murky! Then, describing the night-cap and the handkerchief, Schicchi launches into a tune which could be a slowed-up version of a popular song designed to lull the relatives into entrusting him with Buoso’s new will; it certainly shows Schicchi’s sly cleverness: he’s almost laughing in those rests, sure that he, the outsider, has outwitted the stodgy Donatis. And it’s a show-piece for the singer! Listen how the orchestra piles on the instrument after instrument, until everyone is playing triply very loud (with an instruction to get louder!) as he sings a high G!

The family is delighted, and reunited, by the idea of a new will which will dump those friars; Rinuccio leaves to fetch the notary. The family’s rather typical celebration of Schicchi, reinforced by the full orchestra, comes to a halt when Simone wonders how the estate should be divided. Equally, say the relatives.

The four horns introduce a new idea, which is shared between trumpets, bassoons, and assorted other winds when Simone says he wants the farm at Fucecchio; Zita wants Figline; Betto asks for Prato; Gherardo wants the lands at Empoli. Zita, after a long-held chord from the winds and brass, reminds them that those bequests do not include the mule, the house, or the mills at Signa, which, adds Marco, are the best parts of the inheritance. Another pause. I understand, says Simone, that since I’m the oldest, and was mayor of Fucecchio, you want me to have them – thank you! Which is immediately objected to first by Zita and then by the rest of the family. Schicchi observes, sarcastically, how great is the love among families! Who now almost get hysterical, demanding that they be given the best bits, while woodwinds and brass blare out the idea introduced by those four horns.

The tolling of an off-stage church bell interrupts them: maybe it’s known that Buoso is dead! Gherardo leaves to find out: fast descending chromatic scale from cellos and basses. Lauretta, to much chirping in the winds, re-enters to ask what she should do with one of the birds who no longer wants to eat: give him something to drink, is her father’s response; she leaves. Fast-rising chromatic scales from the strings bring back Gherardo: apparently, there was a military accident: “Rest in peace” sing the relatives happily. Simone suggests that the bequest of the mule, the house, and the mills at Signa should be left to the honest discretion of Schicchi: agreed to by the relatives. That’s fine, he says; now give me the things I need to disguise myself.

Timpani taps the funereal drum as the ladies fetch the various bits of his disguise. Zita brings the night-cap, muttering that she’ll give him 30 florins if he leaves her the mule, the house, and the Signa mills. OK. Violins and oboe play Schicchi’s sly theme when Simone offers a hundred florins. OK. But what’s that slithering in the muted violas? Then it’s Betto, apparently on first name terms with him; then Nella; finally Ciesca.

As Schicchi disguises himself,f Zita, Ciesca, and Nella gather around him and sing a lovely, if ambiguous, lullaby to him. “Perky” idea, now much more lyrical, reappears in the ladies’ vocal lines, but it’s superseded by their soaring phrase, accompanied by strings and bassoon: “Gianni Schicchi is our savior.” The relatives agree.

First a warning for the relatives. The law says that anyone who forges a will, or who is a witness to such forgery, will have a hand cut off and be exiled from Florence – maybe another folk-song here as they vocally agree with him, bidding farewell to Florence. Another musical idea to remember: it will return!

A knock at the door sets everyone, including the orchestra, scurrying. Schicchi jumps into the bed; the shutters are closed; a candle is set on the table for the notary; that “perky” tune shows up again in the strings.

Rinuccio introduces the notary, who, of course, enters to the “legal” theme. The notary and his two witnesses sing a phrase you heard when Schicchi told someone to hurry to fetch the notary; as the notary and witnesses sing it at a slower tempo, it sounds more solemn: more legalistic.

“Sighing” theme from the bassoon as “Buoso” welcomes them, remembering each of their names, which prompts Pinellino, the shoemaker who had always made his shoes, to lament Buoso’s condition. Winds quietly remind us of the triumphant fanfare with which the relatives greeted Schicchi’s deception of his doctor. “I had hoped,” says Schicchi/Buoso, “to write my own will, but paralysis prevents that, so I needed an honest notary.” “Legal” theme from bassoons and strings. The notary is sympathetic to his client’s claim of paralysis, though strings and winds loudly consider that hilarious. Winds and horns suggest the “celebratory” theme while the relatives lament their relative’s condition.

The notary notes that the witnesses are present, but wonders if the relatives should be there? Schicchi/Buoso says they should stay. Over that “legal” theme from the strings in counterpoint, the notary speaks Latin legalese, establishing the date; his own authority as a notary; and as one summoned to write the will of Buoso Donati. To which Buoso/Schicchi adds, also in Latin (so much for Zita’s earlier complaint that Schicchi is merely an ignorant peasant!), while waving his right arm, that any previous will should be annulled, revoked, and invalidated. How wise, note the relatives.

The “sighing” theme relaxes into a more lyrical form as the notary asks him about how splendid a funeral (may it be long in coming!) he wants. Spend no more than 2 florins – what modesty; what heart, dear uncle; it does him honor!

“Legal” phrase from the cellos as “Buoso” leaves 5 lire to the Friars Minor and their work at Santa Reparata. Trumpets give us Rinuccio’s “fanfare” theme, while the relatives approve, noting that one must be charitable. The notary suggests that might be too little, but Buoso/Schicchi replies that when someone leaves a huge amount to monasteries, people think it’s money stolen from others. That rising arpeggio and descent by steps! The relatives marvel at Buoso’s wisdom, and even the notary is impressed.

The cash that remains (funereal-drum-rhythm combined with the theme we heard when the relatives initially agreed to equal distribution) will be divided equally among my relatives. Much gratitude. The property at Fucecchio I leave to Simone; the farm at Figline I leave to Zita; to Betto, the land at Prato; to Nella and Gherardo the Empoli property; to Ciesca and Marco the property at Quintole. Which leaves, the relatives mutter in an aside, the mule; the house; and the mills.

Tremolo strings: I leave my mule, which cost 300 florins, and is the best in Tuscany (first part of ‘perky” theme from the winds) to my friend Gianni Schicchi. (2nd part of the theme very loud from lower winds and trumpets, while 2 horns echo them.) Astonishment from the relatives. The notary repeats the bequest in Latin. Simone wonders what Schicchi will want with the mule, but Schicchi/Buoso tells him Schicchi will know what to do with it. The relatives grumble to the rhythm of their celebration of Schicchi, though they’re cursing him.

The house in Florence, tremolo strings, I leave to my dear devoted and affectionate friend, Gianni Schicchi. Orchestral outrage! The same upsurge with which the opera began. Relatives are, of course, horrified; Schicchi, singing his Addio Firenze phrase, hints at the law, while the notary, to his “legal” theme, reminds them that the wishes of someone making a will should not be impeded. Schicchi/Buoso tells the notary that he is mentally very clear with his bequests; if the relatives object, he will remain calm and sing (end of the Addio Firenze phrase). Which impresses Guccio and Pinellino, the witnesses.

The mills at Signa: the relatives are all agog to hear this bequest, but their agog-ness leads them into a very loud discord from the orchestra. They (funeral drum reappears) will be left (with many sung references to the Florentine law of amputation and exile) to Gianni Schicchi. Zita is ordered to pay 20 florins to the witnesses, and a hundred to the notary who approaches the bed to thank him, “legal theme,” but is dismissed by Buoso/Schicchi.

Victory fanfare from winds and brass. Notary and witnesses bid farewell with the melody they sang when they came into the room.

Now the relatives vent their anger on Schicchi: Thief! Scoundrel! Traitor! Blackguard! “Get out of my house!” is his response. The relatives set about taking whatever they can: the linen; the silver; anything, and as much as they can take!

In the ensuing orchestral chaos, how many themes we heard earlier can you pick out? Maybe Utah Opera should have run a contest for you to name them all, but that would distract you from enjoying Puccini’s orchestral brilliance!

Finally, they are gone. We hear the lovers’ theme as, according to the stage direction, the balcony windows open, revealing Florence “bathed In glorious sunshine.” While Rinuccio and Lauretta sing their love for each other.

Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” by the Utah Symphony & Opera Company at the Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City in May 2010

The orchestra stops. Schicchi speaks to us. Could, he asks us, Buoso’s money have been better spent, indicating the lovers? Muted strings, while clarinets recall the end of Rinuccio’s aria. For this I was sent to hell, which is OK; but, with Dante’s permission, at least grant me, (indicating applause) extenuating circumstances.

The full orchestra is triumphant as the curtain falls on the second greatest Italian operatic comedy.

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