Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at LA Opera, directed by Woody Allen – Plácido Domingo, Andriana Chuchman, Arturo Chacón-Cruz; conducted by Grant Gershon [Sony Classical; DVD]

3 of 5 stars

Gianni Schicchi – Opera in one Act to a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano after an episode from Dante Alighieri’s narrative poem Commedia Part 1: Inferno [sung in Italian, with subtitles in English, French, German & Italian]

Gianni Schicchi – Plácido Domingo
Lauretta – Andriana Chuchman
Zita – Meredith Arwady
Rinuccio – Arturo Chacón-Cruz
Gherardo – Greg Fedderly
Nella – Stacey Tappan
Simone – Craig Colclough
Betto di Signa – Philip Cokorinos
Marco – Liam Bonner
La Ciesca – Peabody Southwell
Maestro Spinelloccio – E. Scott Levin
Ser Amantio di Nicolao – Kihun Yoon
Gherardino – Isaiah Morgan
Pinellino – Daniel Armstrong
Guccio – Gabriel Vamvulescu
Buoso Donati – Momo Casablanca

Los Angeles Opera Orchestra
Grant Gershon

Woody Allen – Director
Kathleen Smith Belcher – Associate Director
Santo Loquasto – Set & Costume Design
York Kennedy – Lighting Design

Recorded 27 September & 3 October 2015 at LA Opera, Los Angeles

Directed for video by Matthew Diamond

Reviewed by: Peter Reed

Reviewed: May 2017
Duration: 59 minutes



This DVD is taken from the 2015 revival of Woody Allen’s production of Gianni Schicchi for LA Opera (the film director’s only opera staging), first seen in 2008, with Thomas Allen apparently excellent as the lead. Its main attraction now is the then 74-year-old Plácido Domingo, LA Opera’s founder and general director, in the title-role, and he spivs up marvellously as a Mafia-style wide-boy who steals the devious, hypocritical, generally loathsome Donati family’s inheritance from under their noses. Italian verismo cinema from the 1950s inspires the hectically detailed set-design, set against a back-projection of Florence, and besides Domingo’s chalk-striped Schicchi there are other Italian stereotypes galore. The direction is just as hyper-active to fit the hour-long opera’s slapstick, and the various relatives of the Donati clan all make their mark.

Domingo’s comic skills may be rather broad-brush but he does it with immense energy – and then he went on to conduct Pagliacci, the other work in the double-bill. The baritone end of his voice tends to disappear and he relies heavily on a declamatory style, but the audience was lapping it up. There is a fine and fiercely matriarchal Zita from the imposing Meredith Arwady, every inch and curve the formidable head of the family. Arturo Chacón-Cruz looks the part of pretty-boy Rinuccio, but his tenor lacks character and Italianate passion, but his fiancée Lauretta (Schicchi’s daughter) is performed very sexily by Andriana Chuchman – her ‘O mio babbino caro’ is not only beautifully sung as the standout aria but also registers strongly in the drama as she pleads with her father, giving him more justification to swindle his future in-laws. There’s a solidly sung and strongly characterised Simone from Craig Colclough, and Peabody Southwell’s Dolce Vita-style, bosomy La Ciesca wiggles and pouts deliciously.

Woody Allen directed opera Gianni SchicchiPhotograph: www.woodyallenpages.comGrant Gershon indulges his singers with great tact while never losing sight of how skillfully Puccini has crafted the score. I only have two misgivings – the first, minor one are the larky pre-curtain-up credits to jaunty Italian accordion music of things like ‘Regio – Tonio Salmonella’ starring people such as Oriana Fellatio and Luigi Impetigo, but that’s Woody Allen for you, such a fun guy; the second is a bizarre and total misreading of the opera when right at the end Zita, in full Fury mode, comes back and stabs Schicchi. The filming quality is one notch up from being just a record of a staging and the sound is adequate, but there is nothing HD about either.

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