“These are two stories of gender-based violence. Two stories that remind us of the too many cases in today’s news, in which women are oppressed by men and by a brutality that is totally unacceptable”. This is how Michele Mariotti describes the diptych which includes Il Tabarro by Giacomo Puccini and Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (A Kékszakállú Herceg Vára) by Béla Bartók, which will be performed together on the same evening at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma from 6 to 18 April in a new production designed by German director Johannes Erath, on the occasion of his first operatic direction in Italy as well as his debut at the Teatro Costanzi. The premiere on Thursday 6 April will be broadcast live/TV by Rai Cultura on Rai5 starting at 9.15 p.m., as well as live at 8 p.m. on Radio3.
The production is part of a three-year project realised in collaboration with the Puccini Festival of Torre del Lago on the occasion of the centenary of Puccini’s death, which falls in 2024. His triptych will be divided into three diptychs, which will be performed one a year for three consecutive seasons, thanks to the combination of each work with another 20th century masterpiece.
“Only after composing Il Tabarro,’ the Music Director of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma says, “did Puccini decide to combine the one-act drama with Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. The idea of the triptych therefore developed along the way. Instead, our idea was to break it down, combining each title with another twentieth-century one-act, which would enhance its most significant musical and dramaturgical features. This is a way to look at Puccini’s three-part masterpiece from a different angle. In this season we are going to start with Il Tabarro and Duke Bluebeard’s Castle: two operas of the same period, both first staged in 1918. They are both stories about the lack of communication within a couple, which end up in violence. In the next season,” Mariotti concludes, “we will present Gianni Schicchi and L’heure espagnole by Maurice Ravel: two extraordinary humorous pages, in which we laugh but in a cynical and somewhat bitter way about the misfortunes of life, while in the 2024/2025 season we will combine Suor Angelica with Il prigioniero by Luigi Dallapiccola: two other works which have in common the theme of violence, which is expressed through religious fanaticism”.
Great artists of international standing will be performing in both casts of the two one-acts. For Il Tabarro the baritone Luca Salsi (Michele), protagonist of many productions in Rome with Maestro Muti and more recently on the most prestigious international stages, will return to the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma; the soprano Maria Agresta (Giorgetta), who played the role of an unforgettable Anna Bolena at the Teatro Costanzi; and the tenor Gregory Kunde (Luigi), fresh from his success in Aida directed by Michele Mariotti in January. Alongside them will be singing Didier Pieri as Tinca, Roberto Lorenzi as Talpa and Enkelejda Shkoza as Frugola. Sebastian Catana will play the role of Michele in the last performance on Tuesday, 18 April.
For Bartók’s masterpiece, will be on stage mezzo-soprano Szilvia Vörös, and bass Mikhail Petrenko, who will be both making their debut at the Teatro Costanzi. The choir of the Fondazione Teatro dell’Opera of Rome will be directed by Ciro Visco.
“Il Tabarro begins with a sunset,” says director Johannes Erath, “but ends in a dark night, where the sparkle of a match becomes fatal for two lovers who have lost their ability to express their feelings and talk to each other. Duke Bluebeard’s Castle also begins with a couple in the darkness of the night: again, their efforts to express themselves and communicate will not succeed. Putting these two masterpieces side by side gives us the rare opportunity to observe them from a different perspective: Puccini’s one-act appears much more symbolist and impressionist than one would think, while Bartók’s is more realist than one would expect”.
Alongside Erath – who has already worked with Michele Mariotti on a production of Verdi’s Masnadieri at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich – there are Katrin Connan, who designed the sets, Noëlle Blancpain, who designed the costumes, Alessandro Carletti as lighting designer and Bibi Abel who took care of the videos.
Il Tabarro, a one-act opera by Giacomo Puccini based on a libretto by Giuseppe Adami adapted from La Houppelande by Didier Gold, was first performed at the Metropolitan in New York on 14 December 1918, while it was premiered at the Teatro Costanzi on 11 January 1919. It tells a story of gender related violence set in Paris in an old boat on the banks of the Seine.
Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, a one-act opera with music by Béla Bartók and libretto by Béla Balázs, was first performed at the Budapest Opera House on 24 May 1918, the same year as the premiere of Il Tabarro, while at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma it was first performed on 10 January 1962. A woman, Judit, follows a man, Bluebeard, to his sinister castle. She wants to know his past, hidden behind seven secret doors, which will reveal the evil that will come to haunt the castle and the couple’s lives.
Rome, March 20