In an attempt to bring to a logical conclusion the tradition of comic opera at Monoux ("Plain Jane", "Three's Company", "H.M.S. Pinafore"), the music department this year decided to concentrate its energies on a production of Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi". This work, requiring as it does a considerable degree of musicianship, vocal strength, and acting ability, was well fitted to demonstrate the standard which the musicians of the school have attained at the present time. The opera, one-third of "It Trittico" (three contrasting one-act operas), lasts only fifty minutes, and therefore formed the second part of the concert.
The first part comprised various items by the choir, "The Cloud-Capp'd Towers" (Vaughan Williams), "All God's Chillun" (arr. Malcolm Sargent), "Aubade" (L,alo), and "Dors ma Colombe" (a French folk-song), and some instrumental solos. The choir were heard to advantage in a vigorously effective performance of "All God's Chillun", and a performance of "Aubade" which made apparent the natural charm of the piece. The instrumental pieces were "The Acrobat" (G. Perkins, trombone); "The Comet" (R. O. Moffatt, piccolo); and "Scaramouche" (G. Conridge and R. Flatman, two pianos).
Our problems in presenting "Gianni Schicchi" were not only to present convincing portraits of the female characters, played necessarily by the junior members of the choir, but also to put across the Florentine flavour of the piece. The part of Gianni Schicchi is designed to stand apart from the other characters, and to direct the audience's attention, and therefore laughter, to the idiosyncrasies and human fallibility of the other characters. Nicolas Common, as Schicchi, had the necessary stage presence and vocal ability to achieve these ends in an entertaining and memorable performance, which he obviously enjoyed. The part of Rinuccio, the traditional Italian young lover, was taken by David Chatterton, who gave an ideally youthful performance and sustained well, what is vocally an awkward part; his partner, Lauretta (Leslie Smith) contributed greatly to the charm of the work, not least by a tender performance of the well-known song "O my beloved Father".
To say that the first part of the opera was coherent and did manage to communicate itself to the audience is sufficient tribute to those who took the smaller parts. Anyone who has seen "Schicchi" at Covent Garden will know that the whole of this section leading to Schicchi's entrance, devoted as it is to plot and character exposition on a large and detailed scale, can be disastrously unrewarding. The lugubrious Simone (John Atttield), the grasping Betto (Gary Carpenter) and Marco (David Lea), the cunning Ciesca (Michael Higgins), the splendidly cantankerous and potently senile Zita (Timothy Goodworth), and the realistic and effective Gherardo-Gherardino father-and-son team (Christopher Bishop and Julian Wood), all managed to convey the necessary detail to the audience. Later in the opera we had the eminently stupid Guccio and Pinellino (Geoffrey Holton and Norman Ellard), and two excellent cameos from Peter Freshney as the doctor and lawyer. Our two pianists, Roger Flatman and Graham Conridge, had a formidable task with which they most certainly succeeded.
Mr. Lock's production was at all times clear and effective, and his pleasantly unusual techniques were well received by the cast; the admirably authentic sets certainly aided his task.
Having written so many reports I find it difficult to express our thanks to Mr. Moffatt. Suffice it to say that we are deeply grateful for his unceasing efforts that have resulted in a musical experience we shall never forget.
N. J. Common (formerly of VI T.Lit.).