Following the death of their child the love between Michele, a Parisian bargeowner, and his wife Giorgetta, has died. The couple have nothing more to say to each other. Although Michele has not given up trying to re-establish contact with his wife, a desperate yearning for a better life drives the young woman into the arms of another man who shares her dreams. Her husband begins to suspect that something is afoot. He lies in wait for his wife’s lover and kills him. In an act of barbaric cruelty he confronts his wife with her lover’s dead body. She collapses in despair.
A young noblewoman must atone for her sins in a convent. Her crime was a secret affair which even brought forth an illegitimate child. Angelica yearns for this love-child but is told by her cold-hearted aunt that it has died. It was only the prospect of possibly getting to know the child one day that had kept Angelica alive. Once she has been robbed of this hope she poisons herself. As she lies dying she is granted a consoling vision: Madonna leads the soul
of her son to her.
The wishes of the protagonists in Gianni Schicchi centre on money. The wealthy Buoso has died and bequeathed his entire fortune to a monastery. His family is furious, but can see no solution. They consult Gianni Schicchi, who is known throughout the city for his cunning. Though he is not a member of the family, his daughter Lauretta is in love with Rinuccio, one of the younger family members. Gianni Schicchi arrives and devises a macabre trick: because no one outside the family knows of Buoso’s death he hides the body, slips into the role of the dying man and dictates a new will to a notary, leaving generous sums to himself and his daughter – much to the annoyance of the rest of the rabble.
Inspired by one-act operas such as Richard Strauss’s Salome and Elektra, Giacomo Puccini wanted comparable works as part of a triptych with which the Italian operatic tradition could be taken further. However, it proved difficult to find suitable material. Five years elapsed from his first plans to the premiere of Il trittico in 1918. But with this three-part evening for Italian opera he succeeded in writing a work that has its place in the international canon of modern opera.
In Il tabarro Puccini portrays the melancholy, emotionally charged atmosphere on the banks of the sluggishly flowing Seine, Suor Angelica is a drama centring on female characters full of mystical reverie and Gianni Schicchi proves to be Puccini’s most sophisticated score: a single, large and finely spun ensemble scene. He had long wanted to write a comic opera. Despite this, the musical comedy is an exception in his oeuvre. Only with the one-act opera about the will-forger Gianni Schicchi did he succeed in creating an opera full of wit and masterful composing technique of the highest order which, like so many great comedies, tells a story which is at heart extremely sad.
The differing styles of the three works are intended to accentuate the affect of the individual operas. Social drama, moving mystery play and a sarcastic social comedy combine to create a musical and dramatic image of
the world. The eloquence of Puccini’s melodic gestures, his subtle harmonies and the breadth and diversity of orchestral timbres give Il trittico the status of a major work. The unity of the musical triptych is really found
in the contrasting themes it covers for which Puccini finds connecting musical stylistics. Suor Angelica has a tragic ending but finishes with an uplifting closing scene. Gianni Schicchi, on the other hand, ends on a lighthearted and deeply immoral note.