The most perfectly constructed score

Friday 28 January 2011

The set model for Il tabarro

Like most people, when I am in rehearsals I hibernate: the rehearsal room, my desk, bed. Occasionally I look at the news or read a paper. Avoid going to the theatre.

Being in the world of Il tabarro for a fortnight has been exciting. I have two more days before we put it to bed for a while: the conductor, Michael Rosewell, goes off to work on Gianni Schicchi with Liam Steel, while I turn to La clemenza di Tito.

Now Il tabarro seems to me the most perfectly constructed score I have worked on. There is plenty of room to breathe, to create character – but there is Puccini’s sure-fire sense of theatre to keep you on the rails. The ways in which he transformed the play La houppelande into this opera are telling: while in the play you are guided to sympathise with the old barge captain and the young man who feels guilty about having an affair with the captain’s wife, Puccini brings the captain’s wife – and her powerful loneliness – into focus. The young man is a firebrand, as violent as the captain. All of the characters have a credible selfishness; all seem to be drowning.

Today we put it all together for the first time: though it lasts only an hour, and depicts one evening, it has a breathtaking arc of aspiration and desire. It reminds me of what can happen in the theatre!

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